The day before PM Erdogan returns, police crack down on peaceful workers’ demonstrations in solidarity with Gezi protesters
SHAGHAYEGH TAJVIDI, TRNN PRODUCER: On June 6, Prime Minister Erdoğan is scheduled to return from his four-day business tour of North Africa. Meanwhile, in Turkey, demonstrators, who Erdoğan called extremists and the trending term Capulcular, continue to protest, if not more intensely than when he left.
On the morning of June 5, major union groups, such as the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DISK), and the Confederation of Public Employees Unions (KESK), met in Ankara in Kızılay square. They were peaceful, chanting songs and slogans. Then this happened.
FIRAT, STUDENT, BILKENT UNIVERSITY, ANKARA: The video that you saw earlier, the video from Haber Turk, the live feed, it was surreal. The man was talking extensively about how nothing was going to happen, and that’s truly what everyone believed. The police warned everyone that there was elements that were preparing to attack the Turkish police and that they should leave the square, gave them a few seconds, and then immediately started driving into the crowd and firing water cannons. The thing is, because most people believe that the protests have actually become a bit more peaceful, there was a lot more people out today.
TAJVIDI: During Erdoğan’s four-day absence, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç made an apology for the police brutality that has attempted to squash widespread protests since May 27. The protests which were sparked by Gezi Park demolition soon grew into a deeper resistance against the authoritarianism and antidemocratic politics of the Justice and Development Party. The apology, though given international attention and treated as a sort of peace offering in foreign media, is considered disingenuous by protesters.
FIRAT: Well, the thing is, he didn’t really apologize. What he talked about was that the violence that they had in the initial protests were–they might have been actually a bit more violent than they should have been, and he apologized for that. He apologized for the first day. He then went on to attack the protesters and say they’re not being very legal [snip] Like, it wasn’t really an apology. It was more of a, yes, we might have made a mistake in the beginning, and then a smack to the face to most of the protesters, actually.
TAJVIDI: Arınç also went on to meet with a group calling themselves the Taksim Solidarity Platform, during which they presented him with a list of demands. It called on the government to release detained protesters, call off Gezi Park reconstruction plans, dismiss top police officials, and ban the use of tear gas by police forces.
FIRAT: As you can see, there is a huge scratch over there. Can you see that?
FIRAT: That’s actually where the used-by date used to be. Every single one we found had the used-by date scratched out. And it either gets slightly more toxic or loses its ability to sort of incapacitate people. And as far as I’ve experienced, not a single one of these has failed to incapacitate large amounts of people around me. So I’m guessing, considering how a lot of people are still suffering from the effects even when they leave the clouds and a while has passed–everyone has a sore throat at the moment amongst everyone I know. You can actually tell who’s been out and who hasn’t been out according to how smooth their voices are.
TAJVIDI: On the same day as the apology, thousands of workers from various unions joined in solidarity with protesters. On the streets, day times have seen relative quiet or occasional festivity, while evenings have been filled with some of the most violent demonstrations the country has experienced in recent history. Numbers around deaths, injuries, and detainments since the start of the uprisings vary from source to source, though the independent Bianet News has most recently reported three deaths and 4,000 injuries.
Bianet has also reported that 38 individuals face prosecution for the content of their Twitter posts. Along with his comments against the protesters, Erdoğan recently called social media the worst menace to society. Attention is now on how he will handle the mass movement as more people awaken to the possibility of a changing political landscape.
FIRAT: Now that people know they can go out there and make a difference, which they’d never known before–like, this generation didn’t grow up protesting. The previous one, especially the ’70s, did, but we haven’t. So now everybody knows. And it’s going to be a lot easier to mobilize this now. But at the same time, because it’s going to be a lot easier to mobilize this, the government knows how we’ve been mobilizing. They’ve learned so much about Skype and Twitter over the last few days.
TAJVIDI: For The Real News Network, Shaghayegh Tajvidi.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.