May Day similar to a state of emergency
Actually, it is not similar - it is exactly the same as the state of emergency that we all know. The streets are guarded by soldiers; so are the malls and the public buildings. There is a curfew at night. There are patrols wandering the ruined streets. During the day, there is fear everywhere: In houses, cars, shops, mothers’ hearts…
Gas canisters are fired. The aim is to control, to secure the place. National guards have machine guns; they are keeping a sharp lookout. If anybody moves on the streets, the state is on top of them with all its power.
If you say this is a war zone, who are they fighting against? Their own people?
The president has labeled the angry crowds who rage the streets in the name of seeking justice “thugs, criminals, looters.” He distinguishes between violent demonstrations and the democratic right to assembly: “When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting. They’re not making a statement. They’re stealing. When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. They’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities.”
However, the streets did not calm down. They continued to stir. This was all happening far from here, in the United States. In Baltimore, the death of a young black man while under arrest triggered protests. The policemen involved were suspended, but this was not enough to calm down the rage and soothe the streets.
Barack Obama is the first black U.S. president in history. He delivered a speech but he was not able to calm down the streets.
As happened in Ferguson many times before, brute force stepped in.
Today is May Day. In Istanbul, the state is on the streets with all its might, with exactly the same mentality as Obama’s: In order to make the public authority visible and to make it felt; in order to fill any void; in order to stop thugs from taking the streets; in order to stop looters and arsonists.
Taksim Square is not open to mass demonstrations because the physical circumstances were not suitable to control incidents if a disturbance erupted. The square would succumb to anarchy. It would be difficult to provide security of life and property.
There is no person in the U.S., however, who would demand that Ankara “respect the right to demonstrate and protest.”
Their president is not in the same place as the violent anti-capitalist and revolutionary groups. There is no such position as supporting the street demonstrations, at least for now…
This is because they have learned by experience that by supporting street demonstrations does not help peaceful demonstrations. It is now the right time for our trade unions and political opposition to also cut the cord.
We have plenty of squares for whoever wants to use them. Place your wreath, make your commemoration at Taksim and go to other squares waiting for you in Istanbul. There are four on the Asian side and four on the European side. Do not make this festivity a living hell for workers and laborers, don’t spoil it for them.
This May Day, militant groups that fetishize Taksim should not be allowed to use corteges to commit vandalism. Seeking the rights of the laborer should not be reduced to seizing one square or one street.
There is a way to celebrate the holiday other than clashing with police. There are means of unionist struggle other than violence.
It is the right time to make a difference to Hamburg, to Baltimore. Why not?
I wish a happy and joyful May Day to all.