The Feminist Wire: Why Every City Needs a Center Square: On the Turkish Uprisings, Coalition Building and Coexistence

It has been almost two weeks since May 28th, when the residents of Istanbul started protesting the urban renewal project instigated by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (RTE), which would replace Taksim Gezi Park situated at the city center with a shopping mall and with restored Ottoman barracks.[1] The peaceful protests that started as an objection to the demolishing of Gezi Park and to the neoliberal restructuring of their beloved city on May 27th were met with a police crackdown, including the burning of the tents of the protestors who were camping on the park grounds in efforts to prevent the dozers from removing the trees.

Police crackdowns of protests became commonplace under Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (JDP) rule, where even the smallest scale demonstrations with a handful of participants were targeted with tear gas and police violence.  Elsewhere, I provided some historical background on the authoritarianism of the RTE regime, as well as the growing police violence in the country. Yet the Gezi Park incident seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The protestors’ resilience and refusal to accept an autocratic, authoritarian government that unleashes its police force onto its people seems to have inspired many citizens of Turkey all over the country to pour into public squares in protests. The increasing participation in demonstrations led to excessive police violence, which led to larger crowds that not only demonstrated against the demolishing of Gezi Park, but that called the authoritarian JDP government to resign because it works “not for, but despite its public.”

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