Riot police use tear gas to disperse protesters at Taksim Square. (Reuters/Osman Orsal)
A relatively small protest at Turkey’s Gezi Park to prevent the ripping out of trees to make way for the building of a shopping mall has erupted into an uprising in which over 1,900 people have been arrested and reports of 1,700 more injured. Protesters say the harsh treatment by police, such as shooting tear gas and water cannons at protesters, is just one more symptom of Prime Minister Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.
Iconic images of Turkey’s uprising quickly appeared on the Internet. There was the image of a young woman defiantly kicking back a tear gas canister toward police, and a young man casually strumming his guitar as he approaches a wall of officers. Then there was the incredible photo of another youth standing upon a flattened improvised barricade, waving Turkey’s flag, reminiscent of Enjolras’ last stand.
Occupy Wall Street showed its support when hundreds of protesters gathered at Zuccotti Park, a k a Liberty Park, over the weekend. The “peaceful international solidarity event” is being held “with the goal to direct public attention to Istanbul Gezi Park protests and consequent police brutality of AKP/Erdogan government!” Occupy Wall Street announced.
Photo by @EyeOnTheGround.
Overall, the social media response to the protests has been staggering. Between Friday and Saturday, at least 2 million tweets mentioning hashtags related to the protest (#direngezipark, #occupygezi, #geziparki) were sent. At one point, more than 3,000 tweets about the protest were published every minute.
Even Erdogan weighed in on the Twitter factor, calling the social media tool a “menace.”
“There is now a menace which is called Twitter,” Erdogan said. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”
Making a small concession, Erdogan did admit the police had made “mistakes” in their initial response.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu took to Twitter to warn citizens: “The continuation of these protests…will bring no benefits but will harm the reputation of our country which is admired both in the region and the world.”