Photograph by Daniel Etter—Redux
“I never expected this to happen,” photographer Daniel Etter tells TIME. “I chose to live in Istanbul because I wanted to have a city where I’m close to the big news stories, but still live in a stable and peaceful and quiet place.”
This week, protests in Taksim Square — around the corner from Etter’s apartment — turned violent when police unleashed water cannons and massive amounts of tear gas on environmentalists demonstrating against the government’s plan to demolish Gezi Park and turn it into a mall.
“It’s a tiny park in the middle of an ocean of concrete,” Etter explains. “It’s not very impressive and nobody really used it, but it’s one of the last remaining green spaces in the city and it became symbolic.”
The violent removal of the demonstrators ignited “nation-wide solidarity and protests against the government,” he says, which is led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“It’s a strange coalition of opposition groups,” Etter says. “Mostly the secular young, but there are all kinds of other people mixed in.”
For several days, Etter documented the events in his neighborhood, capturing the iconic frame above on June 1, 2013, featured in this week’s LightBox Pictures of the Week gallery.
“He was always on top of this barricade,” Etter says of the man pictured waving the Turkish flag, “and he didn’t have a mask. He was just totally exposed to the tear gas. He stood there and waved the flag for a few minutes until he couldn’t take it anymore and collapsed. He went back up again and did the same thing — wave the flag, collapse, go back.”
“He was determined,” he says. “I don’t know how people manage to throw stones and keep going. The amount of tear gas that is shot at the protestors — even with a mask, I was almost fainting in between shots.”
Etter’s image went viral on social media and drew comparisons to Eugène Delacroix’s dramatic 1830 painting commemorating the French Revolution, Liberty Leading The People.
“The body language and the waving flags and the smoke in the background and the fire are very similar,” Etter says, “but you can’t really compare these two events, they’re nowhere close to in relation.”
The one similarity, he concedes: “people here in Istanbul are so keen to get change.”
See more of this week’s best photos on LightBox.