Black Lives Matter protests have been shaking the US for almost two weeks. Protests began after a white police officer pressed his knee to George Floyd’s neck. After the video of the 46-year-old black citizen, George Floyd’s death became viral, tens of millions of people began screaming out three words: “I can’t breathe!” Those were the last words of the victim, which shook the world. Though it wasn’t the first crime committed by the US National Security forces, this last one changed the world’s agenda inevitably.
American police officers’ violence over black citizens in the country is almost an official state policy. Some also argue that following the election of Donald Trump as the president of the US, those incidents have risen. One way or another, the last crime took millions of people down the streets of the US. Protests began on May 25 and increasingly continuing. Having killed an unarmed black man by a white American police officer ignited the wick of a new riot wave.
“Black Lives Matter” and Turkey’s “Gezi Park Protests”
Turkey had experienced one of the biggest political unrest in its history in 2013. The protests had begun on May 31, —almost the same date with George Floyd protests. It was an unforgettable solidarity example in Turkey’s near term political history. Millions of people from 81 provinces of Turkey occupied streets in search of justice and democracy.
In fact, it all started to prevent the ruling party (Erdoğan’s AKP) to build a mall to the heart of Istanbul. Because the government in that period was planning to destroy the only public area in Istanbul’s Taksim square. However, shortly after, protests turned into another shape and demanded more political freedom. Further, the more Turkish state and police forces became aggressive, the riots became bigger and stronger.
So, today in Turkey, many people from social media show their interest in the riots in the US. Moreover, they tend to offer their solidarity for the American protestors. For example, millions of social media users joined #BlackoutTuesday trend and turned their personal pages into black. But these acts also raise a question: where does this interest really come from? The answer is the 2013 Gezi Park Protests, which holds many similarities with its descendent. So, let’s see what are those and are there really some parallelism between them.
1- Naming Protestors
Both leaders, Erdoğan and Trump, have a similar and identical term to call and name protestors. Instead of democratically give an ear to them, they rather prefer to insult them by giving out-of-line defining. Trump has recently called protestors as “Thumb”, while Erdoğan had called protestors as “Çapulcular” (Looters). I assume that it is a common feature of all anti-democratic leaders and their powers.
2- Using Religion as a Toxic Tool
Religion has always been an important political instrument to use the ruling people. It “was” during the middle ages in the West, and still “is” assumably. So, last week Trump held a Bible outside a church in Washington D.C, the capital city of the US. While holding a bible, he was threatening protestors by using the military force to end protests. Former PM, and current President of Turkey, Erdoğan, on the other hand, had held a Kuran in a mosque in Turkey during Gezi Protests. What’s more, he depicted protestors as marginals, who bent on the destruction of property and religion.
3- Conspiracy Theories!
Here is an indispensable instrument that has been in use over the centuries. According to both leaders, there are some secret international powers, who are aiming to destroy political and economical stability inside the country. “Traps of the outsiders” are focusing on tearing the country apart. What’s more, even those secret power resemble both in Turkey and the US: George Saros! Trump claims that George Soros and his Open Society Foundations funds protestors, just like Erdoğan claimed that.
4- Black Lives Matter: Between Peace and Violent
The name of the protests in the US is quite meaningful: Black Lives Matter! It matters because of the roots of the protests based on more than two centuries of slavery tradition of black people in the US. So, George Floyd’s incident is not the first one, —hopefully, it will be the last! And same anger was exist in Turkey before Gezi Protests exploited. The search for a democratic country, ending all discrimination caused a month-long riot in Turkey. However, commonly, both unrest turned into violent acts from a peaceful one.
5- Military Force Card
Due to the fact that the leaders do not step forward to take democratic precautions to meet protestors’ demands, the intensity of riots grows. So, it happened in Turkey, which happens in the US. At this point, similarly again, both leaders threatened their own citizens to use military forces against them in the country. So far so now, American Army refused to take over the streets and shot over the Americans. But no one is sure what is going to happen in the next rally…
6- Danger for “Counterrevolution”
It may be overestimating to name unrest in the USA as a revolution, so the term counterrevolution may be a misleading and assertive term to define the situation. However, it is obvious that there is a powerful demand for change. And every revolution holds a demand for change in it. So, why not call the aggressive attitude of governments as counter-revolution?
7- Who is the “Silent Majority”?
On June 2, Trump shared a tweet, which he uses quite often and actively, wrote down “Silent Majority” with capital letters. He was referring to his supporters and meant that he keeps them in control against civil war. But in the subtext, Trump is giving a message that nothing can stop him to use Hell’s Angels as a paramilitary army against ANTIFA and some other local leftist groups. As citizens of Turkey, we are quite familiar with this language of hatred. President Erdoğan had also used exactly the same term as silent majority to threaten peaceful protestors. This language of hatred and hostility, nevertheless, only grows the polarization of the country and the society itself.
8- The Orientation of Protests
Both “Black Lives Matter” and “Gezi Park Protests” broke out in one particular city, —Minneapolis and Istanbul, respectively. However, following the decisive manner of protestors and offensive and aggressive policies of the states, they spread over the country.
9- “Black Lives Matter” Protests Own Language
Every riot, unrests, protests, upheaval create their own language and the way to gather support from common people. While some fight face to face on streets, others support from their home. Fear is always a real feeling that everyone has and must-have inside of their existence. Apart from fear, creativity, and imagination leaves its mark to protests. It occurred in Turkey, and now we witness the same way in the US.
The way people showed their support in the two examples is quite similar. The banging of pots and pans to show support from home, battling with tear gas, commandeering of a small crone, “woman in red” standing up bravely to the police are, for instance, the way how people reacted against disproportional power of the states’ legal military forces.
Bonuses: Other Surprising Similarities
Bonus 1: Pro-Government Attackers
While millions of people support protests, which claim more freedom and democracy, some pro-government provocateurs attack protestors brutally. Here are two examples with pictures, —one in Turkey, and another from the US, the current protests. Both individuals aim to dangerously damage or to kill peaceful protestors. They really have their own brutal, scary, and even savage ways which reflect the way how governments approach the citizens.
Bonus 2: Unforgettable Phenomenons of Protests
Unplanned and common people’s protests create their own language. They rely on people’s own initiative, which doesn’t have a “leader” or “leadership”. One way, it might be a disadvantage, so was it in Gezi Protests, for instance. But on the other hand, the disadvantage becomes an advantage and create its own leader and leadership. So, was it in Gezi Protests, too.
Bonus 3: Women Takes The Lead as Usual!
The example of which I am talking about is a fan group of a prestigious Turkish football club Beşiktaş: Çarşı. Çarşı is not only a fan group of a football club but also a political unite that does not hesitate to share its opinions in public. They are leftist-anarchist and open up their political views with this slogan: “Çarşı Her Şeye Karşı” (Çarşı opposite everything). So, one of the tribune leaders of the fan group became a phenomenon by taking over an armored water cannon.
It is called TOMA in Turkish and can be translated into English as Intervention Vehicle against Social Incidents. So Drummer Vedat captured TOMA and confused the police wireless, acted as police. Then, he attacked police with their own vehicle! It was an unforgettable and adorable moment during Gezi Protests!
“Looking glass” metaphor, used by a Turkish columnist Aydın Selcen in a recent article, reveals the hypocrisy behind the critics through Trump administration. One hand, it is valuable to share support for victims in the US, but on the other hand, condemning American police and ignore the injustice in their own country is hypocrisy. Apart from all, we all wish for a better and more democratic world, where there is no “other”.