The Battle of Consolação
Since June 2, when the price of public transportation in São Paulo, Brazil, rose from R$3 to R$3.20, the Free Pass Movement has initiated protests that have turned into a wave of revolt.
On June 13, protesters who had been marching peacefully from the Municipal Theater to Avenida Paulista, the city’s main avenue, were attacked by São Paulo’s military police. The attack took place in Rua da Consoloação in the center of the city; tear-gas bombs and rubber bullets were fired into the crowds. Students and journalists covering the events were cornered, beaten, and arrested. Several reporters were injured, and one photographer even lost an eye after being hit in the face with a rubber bullet.
The events were a chilling reminder of the violent protests against the military dictatorship in 1968, which took place in the same region and have shaped Brazil’s history. On one side of the protests were students who agreed with the military currently in power. On the other, young protesters called for an end to what they saw as oppression. The idealogical disagreement escalated into physical aggression, and with stones and pieces of wood and glass in hand, the two sides battled until the police intervened, killing a 20-year-old student.
The Battle for the Heart of Istanbul Rages On
Early on Saturday night, the protest village of tents and flags that had been set up in Istanbul’s Gezi Park was razed, and its inhabitants emphatically tear-gassed and cleared, at the behest of Turkey’s combative Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In response, anti-government protesters (mostly, but not exclusively, made up from Turkey’s young urban middle class) took to the country’s streets all weekend, building barricades and clashing with riot police, with crowds of several thousands blocking major highways and bridges in an effort to join them.
On Sunday—after a morning of tear-gassing in Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities—Erdogan delivered a set-piece speech to a huge pro-government rally on the outskirts of Istanbul. Designed to be a show of national unity under his Justice and Development Party (AKP), his speech was defiant and paranoid. He derided protesters as “marginal” and blamed the international press—CNN and BBC, in particular—for being “provocateurs.”
There’s More to Stuart Franklin Than the Most Famous Photo of the 20th Century
Magnum is probably the most famous photo agency in the world. Even if you haven’t heard of it, chances are you’re familiar with its images, be they Robert Capa’s coverage of the Spanish Civil War or Martin Parr’s very British holiday-scapes. Unlike most agencies, Magnum’s members are selected by the other photographers on the agency, so becoming a member is a pretty grueling process. As part of an ongoing partnership with Magnum, we will be profiling some of their photographers over the coming weeks.
One-time Magnum president Stuart Franklin is probably best known for his photo of an average-looking man with some groceries defying a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square. Yet, as I discovered when I spoke with Stuart, that photo was not the instant sensation people might expect it to be. He talked me through art school’s effect on his work, the difference between approach and style, what “news photography” really means, and getting caught up in the Heysel Stadium disaster.
VICE: Unlike some of the people we have spoken to in this series, you were classically trained in the arts.
Stuart Franklin: I studied drawing, painting, and photography on a degree course at what used to be called the West Surrey College of Art and Design.
Do you think that influenced the way you work?
In terms of photography, it gave me a better sense of lighting and urged me to not be afraid of anything—formats or technical hurdles. On the postproduction side, I was able to go straight into setting up my own darkroom in London, processing my films and functioning as an editorial photographer, which was quite useful.
Manchester, England. Moss Side Estate. 1986.
I feel that maybe your styles and subjects have been more varied compared to those of most other photographers. Do you attribute that at all to your lack of concern about formats and techniques?
I believe there are two things to consider: one is style and the other is approach. I think the approach I take to photography is quite consistent across the board. It’s a considered, gentle approach that I have to working in almost any context. The tools that I pack in my bag to take on different assignments or projects vary enormously. They become a localized and temporary style, but I think that underneath everything there is the thumping bassline of the work, which is about my approach attempting to be quite graceful, to be quiet. The tools are whatever I pick up on the day—it could be a pencil, it could be a camera.
You became well-known after covering the famine in the Sahel in the mid-1980s, directly after you studied art. How did you transition into photojournalism?
In the beginning of the 1980s, I did a lot of work in Mexico City, supported by the Telegraph Magazine. I also did lots of work in the north of England looking at the decline of the manufacturing industry, as well as similar stuff in France, the Pas-de-Calais and areas around Metz. Those were my early bits of work. I joined Sigma in 1980, and over a period of five years they mainly sent me to cover breaking news. The first major story I covered was the 1983 bombing of the US barracks in Beirut, where I think 285 US soldiers were killed. [It was 241; a further 58 French servicemen were killed in a separate blast nearby two minutes later. Six civilians and the two bombers also lost their lives.] I covered the civil war in Lebanon in a wider context, too—those things all happened before I went to Sahel to cover the famine.
Beirut, Lebanon. 1983. American soldiers sift through rubble in the aftermath of a devastating truck bomb in Beirut.
How did those early assignments compare to the expectations you had? Was photography as a job something of a shock?
I remember one of the first assignments I had with Sigma was the IRA bombings in Hyde and Regent’s Parks in 1982, down near Horse Guards. Sigma rang from Paris and asked me to go and cover it. I got there to see police tape, miles from what had happened. I couldn’t really see anything, so I went back home. They rang me later furiously asking what I had got. I told them that it didn’t look very interesting. I learned then that, in a news situation, anything visual is valuable—even if it’s only a photo of the police tape with something blurry in the background a mile away.
The materiality of any war or news story overrode the aesthetic potential for a while, and that was quite a shock to me. I was expecting to make powerful, striking photographs and often I was actually just expected to photograph anything I could.
On the subject of striking photos, I was wondering about your photo of the man in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square. First off, do you ever feel that one image overshadowed the rest of the work you did during the student protests there?
Well, it didn’t actually happen that way. When I got back from China, I went into Michael Rand’s office at theSunday Times Magazine. He was laying out one of my photos on the cover of the magazine, but it was another of the photos from my trip —a topless guy with his arms raised. That became equally well known for a while. The “Tank Man” picture grew in importance over time, but it didn’t actually stand out far from the body of work immediately after the event.
But yes, in more recent years people talk about that photo a lot. Does it annoy me? Well, you can’t really be annoyed about it. I am just glad I was there. All I know is that I did my job and I think I did it well.
Femen: Sextremism in Paris
The topless protest group Femen started out in the Ukraine in 2008. Today, it’s a global movement, and more than 300 topless warriors have joined the naked revolution. Their fans say they’re courageous, no-nonsense activists, while their critics say their tactics devalue the fight for female equality. What’s inarguable is that due to those tactics, the world’s media are, once again, pointing their cameras at the feminist cause.
To find out why women are flashing their tits in the name of feminism, VICE spent a weekend in Paris with Inna Shevchenko, one of Femen’s founding members, and her French Femen sisters. We filmed the lead up to one of their latest actions: pissing off a baying horde of neo-Nazi thugs.
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Journalist Tim Pool is streaming live from Istanbul today where antigovernment protests have been ongoing since last Friday. What began as a campaign against the city’s plans to construct a mall in a public park has escalated into a massive display of anger over the ruling party’s neo-Islamist social agenda and religiously driven laws. Riot police have moved in with brutal force, using tear gas on tens of thousands of protestors. It is the largest civil uprising in the history of Turkey.
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Protesting Against Gay Pride Was Super Boring
This past weekend was the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade, and as always with large-scale gay events, a group of antigay Christians turned up to yell at everybody. I spent the day with them.
The day got off to a pretty miserable start, with the guy with the mic screaming, “You’re a wicked, evil, twisted abomination! You deserve AIDS!” at this old man.
Then this lone counterprotester showed up.
His sign read “St. Paul was a closet case” and he was shouting a bunch of stuff at them about pork: “Why don’t you get a fucking life you pork-eating fucking pigs, I hope the Muslims blow you motherfuckers up and you burn in hell you fucking pigs.”
The curse words seemed to genuinely upset the anti-gays. One of them started shouting, “There’s laws against cussing in public! It’s illegal for you to say the F word to me!”
Then the police came over and broke it up, making the counterprotester go and protest from the end of the block.
Then the second group of counterprotesters arrived. These guys had giant rainbow flags that they held up in front of the antigay protest to block them from the view of anyone marching in the parade.
Even though they’d only been there for about 30 minutes, the majority of the protesters seemed pretty bored by that point. I got to chatting with this lady.
She told me that her name was Angela, and that she liked my shirt. I almost reciprocated the compliment out of politeness, but then I realized that her shirt said “REPENT FOR JESUS” and stopped myself.
On Friday, May 31, Turkish riot police fired tear gas and pepper spray into a peaceful protest held to save Gezi Park, one of the last green areas in central Istanbul. This set off the biggest civil uprising in the history of the Turkish Republic, calling for Prime Minister Erdogan’s resignation. The unrest has spread like wildfire to more than 60 cities where protests are still ongoing. We landed in Istanbul the day it all kicked off.
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Turkey Is Waging an Invisible War on Its Dissidents
Above: A wall of Greek riot police. (Photo by Henry Langston)
For the past week, we’ve been watching scenes of mayhem unfold in the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and other major Turkish cities. What started as a local initiative to stop a central Istanbul park being turned into a shopping center became a civilian street war against the rising authoritarianism of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.
As if to cement everything the protesters were already angry about, Erdoğan sent police in to quite literallycrack skulls and fire tear gas and pepper spray at the mostly peaceful crowd. But alongside the highly visible violence, an invisible war is taking place on those from Turkey who dare to stand up and speak out against the government.
The story starts not in Turkey, but in downtown Athens, from where Turkish asylum seeker Bulut Yayladisappeared last Thursday. According to eyewitnesses, at around 9:30 PM Yayla was immobilized, beaten, and pushed into a car on Solomou Street in the neighborhood of Exarcheia. When support groups and lawyers looked up the car’s registration plate, the owner turned out to be none other than a member of the Greek police.
Shockingly, the Greek police force itself denies any knowledge of the incident. Yayla, a political activist who has been arrested and tortured in Turkey in the past, has been trying to apply for political refugee asylum in Greece for some time now. But given Greece’s famous bureaucracy, it probably won’t surprise you that Yayla hasn’t had much luck.
When he resurfaced after his kidnapping, Yayla was no longer in Athens, he was in Istanbul, being held by the Turkish counter-terrorism police. Since then, he has informed Greek support groups of what happened after his abduction. With a hood over his head, he was passed between three different groups of people, crossed the border to Turkey (under what he said felt like a wire fence in the middle of the night) and eventually found himself in Istanbul.
Turkey’s Weekend of Protests and Jubilation
“There is now a menace, which is called Twitter,” Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared on Turkish television on Sunday. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”
Made in one of two speeches given to Turkish TV yesterday, it is a statement that characterises the social unrest in Turkey as much as it seems to validate it. While mainstream Turkish media has largely tried to ignore the tens of thousands of protesters on the streets of Istanbul, Twitter has offered them a way to organize themselves and publicize their cause. What began as a peaceful protest about the destruction of a park to make way for a shopping center has turned into a broader expression of Turkish discontent. Many sections of society are angry at what they see as a concerted attempt by Erdogan to transform the democracy he is charged with maintaining into an Islamist dictatorship. A combination of gentrification, government corruption, and hints of a crackdown on personal freedoms, such as drinking alcohol and kissing in public, has provoked the biggest social uprising in Turkey for a decade.
And let’s not forget the media blackout—a lack of press freedom tends to be a decent sign that a country’s top-ranking officials are getting a little too power hungry.
During the weekend, protests spread to more than half of Turkey’s 81 provinces. Most notable were those in the capital, Ankara, where violent clashes between riot police and demonstrators resulted in more than 700 injuries, and in Istanbul, where the number of wounded has reached 1,000. You can only guess those figures are rising as we speak, while officials have announced that more than 1,700 arrests have been made.
On Sunday evening, fans of the city’s Beşiktaş football team commandeered a digger and drove it at riot police, and those who didn’t feel up to joining the struggle in the streets hung out of windows, adding to the din that has engulfed parts of the country by banging on pots and pans.
VICE currently has a number of reporters and filmmakers in Turkey. We called one of them on Sunday to make sure they hadn’t suffocated in tear gas plumes and to get their perspective on the latest from the ground. There’s also a selection of images from the weekend’s events in the gallery above.
VICE: Have things calmed down or are they getting more violent?
VICE Reporter: Things have calmed down in Taksim Square for sure. Protesters have built barricades all around the park, so it’s very hard for police vans or bulldozers to enter. But since 9:30 PM tonight. clashes between police and protesters have gone off in Beşiktaş and it’s been brutal. They’ve been using tear gas and other gas which has made people vomit. It has been alleged that it is Agent Orange, but I can’t confirm or deny that.
Have you encountered many injured people?
When you walk on the streets here every five minutes you’ll see someone who has an injury, be it a bruise or someone suffocating from tear gas. There are six makeshift clinics at Taksim, staffed with volunteering doctors and medical students because police aren’t letting ambulances through. There were 500 people needing treatment in the medical center I was in yesterday; these people can’t get to hospitals. On Friday one protester was in front of a hospital and she saw 40 ambulances taking people in—at that point the official numbers of people who had been injured was less than 40. So I can’t confirm injuries, but obviously a lot more people are injured than the media is reporting. At least where I am right now, Gaviscon, which is used to help the effects of tear gas, is sold out.
I’ve heard some reports that police have destroyed benches and billboards to make it seem like protesters did it. Have you seen that?
There are a ton of rumors floating around about all sorts of things. The first night we were here people were screaming about young people being killed openly on the streets by police, which is still unconfirmed. Then yesterday there was a lot of talk about Turkish Greenpeace confirming that Agent Orange gas had been used against protesters, but again I think that was just a rumor. I’m not saying it can be ruled out, but it’s hard to confirm. It is possible that police have gone into crowds intentionally causing a ruckus, but it could also have been football hooligans or anarchists. We actually spent time yesterday with a group of protesters who’ve spent the entire time gathering all the rumors and then trying to fact-check them.
Occupiers Faced Down Cops in Istanbul’s Taksim Square
On the night of May 27, bulldozers and backhoes rolled into Gezi Park, a tiny island of trees and grass at the center of Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, and started ripping it apart. This was part of a government project to “pedestrianize” the historic square—what that meant in this case, according to many blogs, was turning one of the last open green spaces in the city into a shopping mall. No community organizations or local people were asked what they thought about the plans for the park devised by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which included rebuilding a historical barracks that was demolished in the 1940s and adding sidewalks to make the square more friendly to pedestrians.
Four days later, after nonviolent protesters occupied the park and survived attacks by the police that included tear gas and water cannons, they’ve won at least a temporary victory thanks to a court decision. In fact, Instanbul’s mayor, Kadir Topbaş, just announced that there was never any plan to build a mall. It’s an amazing eleventh-hour turnaround, but it didn’t happen without a battle.
Protesters began gathering in the park as early as Monday, May 27, and word spread through social media as more pro-park, anti-government Turks showed up to sit in front of the bulldozers. By Wednesday, the police were involved, and they responded to the nonviolent protests with aggressive tactics—what really got everyone’s attention was a photo from Reuters showing a young, apparently peaceful environmentalist in a red dress getting pepper-sprayed by a gas-masked cop. That image became a symbol of the “occupation” of Gezi Park, as well as the cops’ terrorization of the protesters.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the AKP wasn’t interested in starting a dialogue with the occupation and gave a speech on Wednesday that made it clear that a decision on the park’s fate had already been made. By then, many protesters had set up camp at the park and were sleeping in their tents. At dawn on Thursday, May 30, the police entered the park, firing tear gas and burning tents. The bulldozers were stopped, however, when opposition politicians Sırrı Sureyya Önder and Gülseren Onanç stood in front of them and demanded to see proper permits.
Even with the police using pepper spray as if it were bug repellent, the occupation continued, and even grew. On Thursday, photos of protesters reading to the police spread around the internet, and those who are involved in the occupation say they are committed to nonviolence.