These protests are not about the trees; they are about a particular logic of government that violently imposes neoliberalism irrespective of the people.
Originally posted on the Collettivo Prezzemolo blog.
The conviction that Turkey is a success story of economic growth and democratization holds on a number of assumptions. It reduces economic prosperity to the numerical increase in the GDP while ignoring social injustice, income inequality, precarious employment, labor fatalities and so forth. It reads stable democracy as a commitment to consecutive elections, absence of military coups, and majoritarian rule, while turning a blind eye to the human rights violations, and the political repression of minorities.
Indeed, Turkey is a “success” story of environmental degradation to create sites of construction and profiteering, of cultural and historical destruction to build hundreds of fortresses of mass consumption. It is also a “success” story of police growth and paramilitarization, of the suppression of activists, journalists, academics and artists. The ongoing events in Istanbul very well portray this “success” story.
For several days, a group of Istanbulite people occupied Taksim Gezi Park to resist against its demolition. A while ago, the AKP government decided, without negotiating with the people of Istanbul, to run a project for the reconstruction of the Taksim Square, the most central location of the city. The project included the demolition of the Gezi Park, and its replacement with a shopping mall based on the replication of an old military barracks (Topçu Kışlası) which used to exist there, until the early 1940s.
For the last two days, the riot police cracked down before the sunrise on peaceful protesters who were camping on the Gezi Park. The police destroyed their tents and set them on fire.
On Friday morning, the riot police surrounded the entire Gezi Park and blocked the protesters’ access. Since then, thousands of fellow Istanbulites came to Taksim Square to support the resistance. Yet, the Turkish police embarked on warfare against peaceful demonstrators with excessive use of gas bombs and water cannons. Violent police repression injured more than 100 people, many of them needing to be hospitalized.
Social media accounts claim that ambulances were not allowed to enter the square, while several injured people were asking for help. Doctors were called to provide voluntary assistance, and mobile clinics were set up. The whole day, the police did not stop firing tear gas and terrorized Taksim Square and the entire neighborhood.
Despite ongoing police brutality, the number of protesters increased and many fellow Istanbulites, mostly organized through social media, continued to arrive to occupy Taksim Gezi Park. In the evening, riot police blocked the entrance to the square. They encountered thousands of protesters rallying through Istiklal Street. It is reported that mobile networks were blocked and security cameras were turned off to prevent the streaming of the incidences.
For hours, riot police kept shooting gas bombs and pressured water against the protesters from behind their barricades. At midnight, they violently started cracking down on the gathering on Istiklal Street. Still, many people continue to resist and are making calls for a bigger demonstration throughout the weekend.
The ongoing protests in Istanbul are not simply about the removal of some trees in Gezi Park. They are about a particular logic of government. It is a logic that authoritatively and violently imposes destructive and profit-making policies irrespective of the people, their cities, their history and their environment.
We, the Collettivo Prezzemolo, express our solidarity with our comrades resisting yet against another authoritarian government and system among others in Europe and the world, where anything, including murdering people and destroying the environment, can be done for the sake of guaranteeing the profits of a handful of bosses, CEO’s and banks.
We share the protesters’ dreams of a town, a city, a world that is organized and built more democratically, according to the needs of a society freed from neoliberal impositions of uniform ways of living, producing and consuming through violence and suppression.