The tension in Turkey is quickly approaching its breaking point as thousands of protesters gear up for a third week occupying Istanbul’s Gezi Park. This being the modern age, where computers fit in our pockets and everybody’s a potential terrorist, some locals decided to take their little camera-enabled, radio-controlled quadcopter for a spin. This, again, being the modern age, police promptly shot it down. And yes, a drone was harmed in the making of this movie.
This whole narrative feels unsettling, because it is. The protests themselves sound like they’re about to get violent after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to empty Gezi Park and, presumably, Taksim Square on the southern border of the park. Before it got shot down, the civilian drone actually captured some pretty stunning footage which one Vimeo user compiled into a short movie with an exciting soundtrack. (Consider jumping ahead to the four minute mark, when things get dramatic.)
It’s not terribly uncommon to see these small, affordable drones at protests these days. Way back when Occupy was still a thing, activists started flying drones overhead, when police would try to disperse crowds, often with their billy clubs and rubber bullets. This was smart, because police have been known to break protesters’ cameras and/or steal the memory cards, so that images of the brutality don’t make it onto the internet or, worse, get passed off to the press.
But what if the NYPD started shooting cameras out of reporters’ hands? Can you imagine the level of freak out if the police had pointed their guns at the Occupy media team’s equipment in Zuccotti Park and emptied their clips? It would have be mayhem!
Unfortunately for the Turks, mayhem is the status quo in Istanbul these days. Prime Minister Erdogan issued a “final warning” to the protesters on Thursday and said that the government’s “patience is at an end.” So if police were shooting the protesters’ drones a couple of days ago, we can only fear that they’ll soon start shooting the protesters themselves.