CNN Reporter Ivan Watson Was Just Detained in Turkey Live On Air, Because the Gezi Anniversary Means The Government's Going Nuts
Clearly having learned nothing from last year's protests, Turkey put its crackdown in full force Saturday and aggressively detained CNN reporter Ivan Watson during a live TV report on the Taksim Square protests. The harsh (and, unfortunately for them, public) police response comes as part of a larger-scale reaction to the anniversary of last year's Gezi Park uprisings, which started off as environmental protests but quickly turned into Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's “worst political crisis since coming to power a decade ago.”
CNN's Istanbul correspondent, Ivan Watson, was ironically in the middle of examining Turkey's brutal police responses, quite literally saying "the police cracking down with their use of force," when he was stopped — and kicked — by Turkish police on live television. Although the video shows him presenting his press pass to the police, he appears to be pulled away by force. Before the video stops short, Watson can be heard saying, in some surprise: “We’re being detained right now. I’m being kicked.”
Watson later Tweeted that he'd been assaulted by the police officer, saying: "Turkish police detained me and my crew in the middle of a live report in Taksim Square. One officer kneed me in the butt." Thirty minutes later, he was released: "Turkish police released CNN team after half an hour. Officer apologized for another officer who kneed me while I was being detained," he said in a Tweet.
Watson is unlikely to be the only one to face police brutality on Saturday. As part of the authorities' attempt to preempt another mass demonstration in remembrance of the Gezi protests, the police force has cancelled its holidays and extended police shifts to 12 hour-long stints — practically setting the stage for clashes by turning nerves on high. According to The Washington Post, roughly 25,000 policemen and 50 water cannon vehicles are being stationed around the city, with Istanbul's main square, Taksim, being blocked off entirely by police.
“If you go there, our security forces are under strict orders, they will do whatever is necessary from A to Z,” Erdogan said in an ominous speech Friday. “You won’t be able to go to Gezi like the last time. You have to obey the laws. If you don’t, the state will do whatever is necessary.”
But the Turkish people have shown themselves to be tougher than their government believes. Already, hundreds of people have moved into city centers across the country, with major marches planned for Saturday night. And the people have a lot to be fed up about, including the government's appalling response to the mining disaster, its institution of gay-only jails, its Twitter and YouTube ban and its scary medical legislation.In fact, maybe that's why the government is taking so many aggressive precautions: it knows it has a lot to be worried about.