Gezi felt like Berkeley 1968, says US Consul General

Gezi felt like Berkeley 1968, says US Consul General

Gezi felt like Berkeley 1968, says US Consul General

Gezi protests ‘set off an expression of discontent’ that have been bottled up over the years in a certain section of society in Turkey, according to US Consul General to Istanbul Scott Kilner. Hürriyet photo/ Sebati KARAKURT

The atmosphere in Gezi Park during the height of the protests in June was reminiscent of the ferment of 1968, according to U.S. Consul General to Istanbul Scott Kilner.

“I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. I graduated from high school in 1970. And I walked into Gezi Park, and I felt like I had gone back in time to Berkeley 1968. It reminded me so much of that period with the signs and the banners and the tents, the free market … just brought back a flood of memories. It was kind of crazy and radical, but it felt very benign and very safe for me,” Kilner told daily Hürriyet.

Kilner said the protests “set off an expression of discontent” that have been bottled up over the years in a certain section of society that “had been on top previously, and now were having no voice in what was going on.”

Despite his favorable opinion, Kinler claimed all was not perfect with the movement, citing a personal experience.

“Just by chance the car ran into a gang of white-masked guys. I really don’t think they had any idea who I was, but they saw a fancy car driving into the neighborhood. They already had pavement stones in their hands, and my driver, who is very skilled, said ‘not good,’” Kinler told daily Hürriyet.

One of the pavement stones landed on the car as another protester smashed the back window, while the windshield was cracked despite the vehicle’s heavy armor, Kinler said.

Istanbul’s heritage

“So I am under no illusions that there were problematic elements in some of these demonstrations that need to be dealt with. This is why these protests are tough to handle – because you have got a very legitimate element and a problematic element,” Kinler added.

Kilner spoke on a variety of subjects during the interview, with a strong emphasis on Istanbul’s Byzantine heritage, which he considered to be neglected and “buried under layers of development.”

The consul general said Istanbul’s Byzantine era “which deserves greater respect” was being buried under new formations and was slowly fading away amid rapid development.

“There is a hugely neglected part of Istanbul’s past, which deserves greater respect. This is the city’s Byzantine heritage. This is not about religion. It is about world heritage. A lot of the Byzantine heritage in this city was buried under the layers of development. But the resources are there to save what is left,” Kilner said.

The city, Kilner added, has reached its full capacity and cannot continue to be “the center of everything.”

“In my opinion, the city has reached its limits and is very close to a tipping point at which it may lose the special features that make it special. In Arnavutköy, where I live, I have the privilege of a world-class view across the Bosphorus. But during the three years I have been there, I watched new structures go up right across the way that had no business being built. When I hear about protected areas being rezoned, perhaps open to the possibility of development, I fear where that is going to lead,” Kilner told daily Hürriyet.