Protesting the 'Right' Way
While I would not hold myself out as a real reporter, I am in a good position to observe breaking news. I am currently visiting my son who lives in Istanbul. Further, he lives and works less than a kilometer from Taksim Square where the "rioting" is happening, or what I would prefer to call true democracy in action.
My wife and I arrived in the evening of Tuesday June 11. We were walking toward our son's apartment when the gas hit us. It was teargas that was used to disperse the protesters in nearby Taksim. My son knew all about the unfolding events but thought we would be okay because we were not actually in the Square. Instantly, everyone on the street, including us, began walking then running away from the gas, which was in small enough concentration so that we could not see it but certainly felt its effects.
I personally was instantly transported back in time (mentally) to exactly forty-five years ago and my only prior exposure to teargas at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Apparently, along with other technological progress, the gas has become more sophisticated and more severe. For me, it was the same: breathing fire, watering eyes through which you could not see, and an animal instinct response to get away from the very air.
The press, both within Turkey and international, has been mostly silent on what is really happening. Within Turkey, media companies are subjected to huge fines for reporting anything that is anti-government. Official statements made by the Prime Minister are clearly false, by my direct observation.
The protest was initiated by a public reaction against a government plan to bulldoze the last major park/green area/recreation facility and turn it into another shopping mall. Regardless of what started it, the protest grew to include Ankara indicating that it was more widespread than a simple disagreement about municipal land management in one city. What is occurring is clearly the unleashing of pent-up distrust and anger at the autocratic behaviors (plural) of the Erdoğan government.
Though ultimately dispersed late Tuesday night, the protesters were back Wednesday, occupying the park. They tried to do it right, meaning they kept things non-violent and 'light.' By rumor (I cannot confirm), they offered the policemen food and drink, then stole a police armored vehicle, and tried to sell it on eBay. Thursday, they brought a grand piano (this I saw) and played the protest like a rock concert, which continued into Friday night.
No more tear gas or water cannons. The prime Minister may have learned his lesson. The British newspaper Guardian had a great cartoon of a water cannon shooting out of an elephant trunk-like nose placed on a caricature of Prime Minister Erdoğan's face.
In honor of Erdoğan's calling the protesters "hooligans," they began to call what they do "hooliganizing." What they are in fact doing is what an American would proudly call, per the First Amendment to the Constitution, "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
What will come of this remains to be seen but, a) it looks as though they saved the park, and b) many hope that the prime minister's (over)-reaction to their hooliganizing will result in his loss of power at the ballot box next year.
The author is a regular contributor to American Thinker. He prefers to remain anonymous, for fear of Turkish government reprisals against his son who will remain a resident of Istanbul while the author returns to the Land of Liberty, which apparently is the liberty to spy on its citizens.