The spirit of Gezi Park lives on


The ‘occupation’ of Gezi Park in response to the clear-cutting of trees was transformed into a country-wide, anti-government ‘movement’ due to disproportionate police violence.

The ‘happening’ went into the annals of Turkish history as the largest-ever social movement in terms of the number of participants, geographical reach, duration, as well as radicalism.

The movement continued well into the past six months with ‘neighbourhood forums’ operating according to the principles of direct democracy, as well as anti-government marches.

Now, regardless of whether people supported or opposed the movement, everything in Turkey is conceived in the context of pre and post Gezi.


“This is just a beginning, the struggle continues!”

This slogan, which was previously chanted in protests against the sacrifice of urban heritage on the altar of neo-liberalism, became the motto providing direction to the movement.

The evening when police ‘evacuated’ the park for the second time in mid-June 2013 proved to be the beginning of a new phase of the movement, not an end.

Activists soon occupied the parks in their neighbourhoods and organised forums, concerts, libraries, free food and swap markets with the hope of prolonging the spirit of resistance born out of Gezi Park.

Ultimately, the forums became breeding grounds for new protests: clear-cutting trees in Ankara to leave way for a new highway, discriminative and insulting comments from the government towards Alevis (Turkey’s largest religious minority) and women, lack of justice for those killed in the protests, prison conditions of Gezi detainees, the government’s policy on Syria…


Who are these “Chapullers”?

According to a study on Gezi Park, conducted by a major research company in Turkey, the average age of the participants in the movement was 28, with 56 per cent of them being university graduates, 37 per cent students, and 52 per cent employees.

An investigation conducted by police on detainees reported that 55 per cent of the ‘suspects’ had a monthly income of less than TL 1,000 (€335), while 85 per cent earned less than TL 2,000 (€670).

The protesters were of all ages, religion, ethnicity and income level.

However, a significant part was composed of urban workers, who make a living by selling their labour force, whilst many others were either unemployed or students.

Therefore, the fact that most of those killed in the protests were workers, that more than half of the activists were women and that football fan groups were linchpins in the protests - coupled with the fact that violent clashes took place in renowned working-class neighbourhoods - provides overwhelming evidence that workers and the poorest segments of society were of paramount importance to the movement.

However, the mass media peddled the idea that the activists were all well-educated, young, white-collars and from the middle class. This carefully crafted image was designed to undermine the movement.

Class belonging is not determined by consumption habits, income level, or education, but by the place held by each in the production process of the economy.

There is still considerable discontent among workers.

Measures to limit the benefits of social security, along with rising unemployment and the repressive surveillance policies have triggered massive reactions from workers.

The new generations of the working class use digital-era tools to communicate rapidly. A quickly written email and a photograph shared without comment – instead of official correspondence between unions – can act as a catalyst for an international campaign.

During the Gezi Movement, such segments of the working class were up all night at the protests, instead of spending their annual holidays at a beach resort.

They preferred solidarity over the ethos of cut throat competition they had been taught to internalise since school, and anonymous heroism over the desire to become the corporate ‘employee of the month.’


What’s changed?

“What about the elections?” Answering the question is nothing more than an attempt to cast a new social movement into ‘old school’ politics.

The attitudes and preferences of the activists have changed. For instance, a woman will no longer grit her teeth and bear it if subjected to sexual abuse on a bus. She’s more likely to shout at her harasser and give him an almighty slap in the face.

The language of the movement, which displayed sexist terminology at the beginning, was transformed after the intervention of feminists. The protests and forums have also become venues where LGBT people could feel at ease.

The workers participating in the protests seek to become members of unions and assume responsibilities.

In strikes, you can now hear customized Gezi slogans. Having assumed from time to time the role of spokesperson for the movement, unions engaged with segments of the workers that they never before represented. Hence, they became familiar with rapidly developing new forms of democracy.

The ‘overwhelmed’ masses, the majority of whom are composed of paid employees, reacted against the government, which had intervened in citizens’ lifestyles and whose unlawful policies were based on unequal growth and development.

This reaction showed us that class struggle was not a phenomenon to be relegated merely to the workplace, but also to the urban sphere and daily life.

After a religious community and former ally of the government fell out with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a series of bribery and corruption scandals emerged. These triggered the resignations of ministers, the dismissal of a number of police officers and protests against corruption.

Therefore, we can say that the third phase of the movement has now started.

The government refused to permit the celebration of May 1 in Taksim Square in 2013, suffocating the entire city with tear gas only a month before the beginning of the Gezi events, in what became a rehearsal for the pièce de résistance in the park.

Gezi Park is ultimately about celebrating May Day every day and everywhere!

“Comrades, prepare your gas masks, charge your smartphones. May Day continues!”