From my good friend, Barry Campbell on the ground in Istanbul:
In the aftermath of the police action to clear protesters from Taksim Square, the original tent city occupying the adjacent park, grows muddier. Yesterday, it had the air of a Turkish Woodstock with some dancing and singing in the mud while others looked weary from the police action the night before. Long lines of ordinary, mostly young Turks were bringing in supplies: water, toilet paper, yellow plastic helmets as if these would offer any protection against police batons. Here and there, tourists posed with the more ardent protesters who were decked out in an assortment of helmets, colored ponchos and industrial gas masks. One young man cycled eerily and slowly around in shorts and wearing an occupy wall street ghost mask. The tent city is taking on the look and feel of a small town with medical clinics, supply huts, its own cleaning crews. Outside the park, hotels and cafes welcome the protesters. They came originally to protest plans by the government to trade trees for more development in downtown Istanbul, but their protest has morphed into something much more-this is now point zero to in a broader protest against what those in the park and many outside see as an increasingly authoritarian Prime Minister. Indeed, his hyperbolic rhetoric, and his menacing threats may prove the point. Variously blaming “terrorists” (read foreigners), “financiers” (read Jews) and street thugs, PM Ertogan appears to reject the notion that any normal Turk could have any complaint entitled to be expressed between elections. By over-reacting instead of downplaying the protests taking place, he may be reaping the whirlwind or bring it down on Turkey. Many are very scared. They fear for their hard won and growing economic prosperity. They fear more for Turkey’s democracy and their personal freedom. To be sure, Ertogan is no Assad and he is correct: fabulous and democratic Turkey doesn’t need an Arab spring. What it needs is a less insecure Prime Minister less afraid of words on banners. His biggest problem is not the tent city. The occupiers, except for a hard core with nothing to lose, will tire of the heat and the mud and the discomfort. The bigger porblem for Ertogan is everyone outside the park. So far he is only speaking to his core supporters. He needs to be more than a partisan. Turks desperately want him to be a Prime Minister and not a sultan. The Turkish democracy depends on it.