ISTANBUL (AP) — The protests in Turkey that began over government plans to uproot trees in Istanbul's main square to make way for a shopping mall have entered their seventh day. The protests have grown into something much bigger than protecting trees, drawing on a deep undercurrent of discontent against what many feel is the increasing arrogance of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Though Erdogan insists he is a servant of the country, protests have spread nationwide.
In the frequent, violent clashes that have occurred with police, two people have died, another is on life support, and about 1,000 have been wounded, medical services and rights groups say.
A NEW WORD EMERGES
The protests' focus remains Taksim Square and its Gezi Park in central Istanbul, which has been occupied by demonstrators of all walks of life for more than a week.
In the first days of the protests, Erdogan dismissed the demonstrators as "capulcu" (pronounced CHA-pul-dju) — a Turkish word that translates as marauder, looter or plunderer. Protesters quickly turned the word to their advantage. They made it their own, creating a brand new verb — "capulling" — which means protesting, resisting the tear gas and shouting anti-Erdogan slogans.
The word has taken social networks by storm. Facebook users update their status: "I'm capulling today" and ask each other "Have you capulled?" It has appeared on banners, signs and handwritten slogans on T-shirts.
Social media users are exchanging links to a music video entitled "Everyday I'm Capulling" and to one of American left-wing philosopher Noam Chomsky sitting in front of a sign reading: "I am also a capulcu" and saying in Turkish: "Everywhere is Taksim, resistance is everywhere."
In protests in the Turkish capital, Ankara, one woman was walking around with a sign attached to her back: "Thank God we are capulcus." Other people distributed stickers in Ankara and Istanbul: "Beware Capulcu."
Protesters want to make sure the police and their water cannon trucks and tear gas rounds can't reach Taksim Square and its occupied park. What better way to prevent entry than setting up barricades? Lots of them.
The barriers range from the elaborate — battered, smashed-up or burned-out buses and cars, often decorated with graffiti — to the simple. Piles upon piles of heavy bricks have been ripped up from sidewalks to form barriers, topped with metal railings, plastic ticket booths, overturned metal dumpsters and scaffolding taken from building sites.
One street leading from the square down toward the Bosporus Strait has more than a dozen barriers. Its sidewalks are now just sand paths, as all of their paving stones have been used to construct the barriers. On one recent night, a tourist bus unloaded a group of bemused or worried-looking tourists at one of the barricades, as a hotel employee guided them past it to their hotel on Taksim Square.
At night during clashes, protesters stand atop the barriers for a better vantage point, or use them as a rudimentary shield from the flying tear gas canisters shot by riot police. By day, the barricades become backdrops for commemorative photos, a good location to pin up artwork, a climbing frame for the more playful, and a location for impromptu soccer games.
Protesters — hundreds during the day, burgeoning into thousands or tens of thousands at night — and clashes with police can generate an awful lot of trash. But those occupying the park and square seem determined to keep the place tidy.
In the cool morning air, volunteers wearing surgical gloves and dragging trash bags scour the park and the square, picking up the detritus of the previous night. Discarded surgical masks used to ward off the worst of the gas, empty plastic water bottles, food wrappers, even cigarette butts are all picked up. The trash is then collected together in an ever-increasing pile on the edge of the park.
YOGA IN THE PARK
Some protesters are doing yoga to relax and stay in shape. Earlier this week, the morning open-air yoga class in Gezi Park was a small affair — an instructor leading about a dozen people stretching out on colored yoga mats on a grassy patch in the center of the park. By Thursday, the classes had swelled to about 80 people, and the instructor resorted to a loudspeaker to make herself heard.
The reasons behind Turkey's eight days of protests are serious enough. But demonstrators have also reacted with humor, particularly on social media sites, often lampooning the prime minister.
In response to Erdogan branding those who drink alcohol as "alcoholics," a group of protesters in Ankara on Wednesday night chanted: "The alcoholic movement cannot be stopped!"
Turkish users of social media have also been sharing photos of ironic slogans spray-painted onto city walls in Istanbul and Ankara.
"This gas is fantastic my friend!"
"You banned alcohol, the people sobered up!"
"Help, Police! Oh never mind, you must be busy"
"Welcome to the gas festival"
"Tear gas works wonders on your complexion"
With each passing day, more and more people have descended on Istanbul's Gezi Park with tents, blankets and sleeping bags. With thousands thronging the park during the daytime, some rudimentary self-organization was needed.
So the tents have been set up in neat rows — mostly. A piece of cardboard with a hand-drawn map is pinned at the park's entrance, showing visitors and new residents alike what's where.
There's a medical station for those feeling unwell; a library with donated books doing a brisk trade; food stations of donated meals and sweets as well as stands selling everything from grilled meat to fish, steamed mussels to popcorn and bright pink cotton candy.
Pets are welcome too. And if they feel unwell, they can head to the "Capulcu Veterinary Clinic" in a blue tent in the center of the park. Meals can be provided too, and a huge bag of dog food stands outside.
A stage has also been built in the center of the park, with people making speeches and a rapt audience clapping and cheering. A generator has been brought in to power the microphones and speakers.
Throughout the park, parents stroll with their toddlers, students do their homework and people walk around holding tablets in the air to record video of the scenes.
Fraser reported from Ankara. Thanassis Stavrakis in Istanbul contributed.