Gezi Park, the initial flashpoint of the protests. The growing crowd got to their feet and began to chant again: "Faşizme karşı omuz omuza!" (Shoulder to shoulder against fascism!) More people continued to stream into the square. Suddenly, the sky was full of white trails shooting into the sky and then falling toward the earth again, exploding in clouds of smoke. Tear gas.
The crowd around me surged through the doorway of a hotel, whose lobby quickly filled with gas and people suffering its effects -- crying, coughing, in some cases vomiting. Through the window, I could see the protesters who had just been gassed moving en masse back toward the square. Undeterred, unafraid.
An hour or so later, the police were gone. As word of their apparent retreat spread on social media, Taksim began to fill with people milling about, aimlessly compared to their previous purposefulness. Had they won? Or were the police off somewhere, regrouping? Turkish parties and unions with their banners held aloft joined what had until this point seemed -- for once -- like an uprising of individuals rather than interest groups. Something seemed to have disappeared from the air along with the tear gas.
May Day all over again? And did the protests, which had started so peacefully and with such great community spirit, have to devolve into something that would make it easier for the prime minister to continue to paint his critics as "marginal" elements within society?