But after violence broke out Friday, outrage brought out Istanbulians from all ages and all sides of the political spectrum onto the streets.
On Taksim Sunday, all of Turkey was represented: the young and the old, the secular and the religious, the soccer hooligans and the blind, anarchists,
communists, nationalists, Kurds, gays, feminists, and students.
They sang and danced, sending a message to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his the ruling Justice and Development Party: "We will fight you."
It might have remained smallish and contained except for the extraordinary violence by police -- unconfirmed reports say two were killed and 1,000 injured.
On Friday and Saturday, it quickly spiraled into a wider movement that left the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice
and Development Party in unusual isolation.
Several things have fueled the momentum. There was grumbling after parliament passed a law restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol late last month,
and authorities also issued warnings about "immodest" public displays of affection.
While some protesters complain about the creeping Islamization of Turkey, others worry over the gentrification of Turkey's megalopolis, and yet others are
concerned over the "undemocratic" practices of this prime minister, who seems to look to Russian President Vladimir Putin for inspiration on how to stay
leader for life.
In reality, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his backers have been pushing a peculiar mixture of Islam, capitalism, and authoritarianism for about a
decade since assuming power.
Meanwhile, Erdogan is defiant, blaming the unrest on opposition parties allegedly seeking political gain. He said in a televised address: "Where they
gather 100,000, I will bring together one million." But it is hard to imagine he can come out of all this politically unscathed. Even some prominent
members of his party are contradicting the party line, saying that they will listen to the protesters' demands.
There may also be fallout abroad, but it's hardly news that Turkey's human rights credentials are sorely lacking: Turkey has jailed more journalists than
The unrest could also foil Erdogan's cherished project: Istanbul's bid to host the 2020 summer Olympics, which will be determined in September.
And it is likely to provide fodder for the naysayers to Turkey's bid for European Union membership, which is expected to advance to the next level of talks this month.
Recently, Turkey has been flooded with Arab money, fueling a financial bubble and high inflation. Some analysts privately say that many Gulf sheikhs are
wary -- following the Arab Spring -- of investing in Western countries because if unrest breaks out, their assets could be frozen. And while the specter of
instability in Turkey can do a lot of damage to Turkey's economy, these eager investors probably won't mind Erdogan clamping down on protestors.