While it would hardly be possible for me to be more appalled by the quality of the wares on sale today in Istanbul’s marketplace of ideas (Che, Lenin and Mao all present and accounted for), it was a triumph for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and superbly competent police work. Istanbul’s a huge city, so it’s possible something’s gone wrong in a place I wasn’t, but from everything I saw, it was astonishingly peaceful–no pepper spray, even. I thought I smelled something peppery at one point, but I think it was actually spring allergies.
Deputy Police Chief Altınok has every reason to boast that he delivered exactly what he promised. (I’ll repeat it in case you missed it):
Deputy Police Chief Altınok said a total of 38,500 police officers would be on duty starting on April 30. He added that the governor’s office had also set up a crisis desk, saying, “There are no restrictions on May Day. People can celebrate May 1 Labor Day as they wish, and the state will help them. We want this to be a joyous and festive occasion where people can exercise their democratic rights without resorting to violence. Anybody can enter the Taksim area, and we don’t have any restrictions on the number of demonstrators.”
That’s exactly what it looked like to me.