Inhaling democracy

Inhaling democracy

Last week in Paris, thousands of people were sending SMS messages to each other with the details of a demonstration to be held the next day designed to cry aloud that the diplomatic negotiations held in Paris for two weeks were not a solution to the climate crisis.

The SMS I received said this: WHAT: D12 Red Lines Action for Climate Justice. WHEN: Dec. 12, at 12:00. WHERE: Avenue de la Grande Armee WHAT TO WEAR: Something red, umbrella, scarf, poster, etc. EXTRA INFO: According to state of emergency rules, more than two people gathering to give a political message is considered “illegal demonstration.” So stay in groups of two until you hear the signal. The red lines action will start after this. 

The next morning, I met with TEMA Foundation CEO Barış Karapınar at the Richard Lenoir metro stop. I did not need to take water mixed with Talcid in it or masks. We took the metro to the Charles de Gaulle Etoile stop. We walked to Avenue de la Grande Armee. We joined the thousands waiting for the action.

As a matter of fact, this was planned as a reaction to the intergovernmental talks carried out behind closed doors in Paris. Until the last moment, this action was banned because of the recent terror attacks. We were taking our chances by gathering on this street. 

In our own country, we are used to being gassed, even as we are walking to the gathering point.

We could not have ever gotten permission for such a demonstration, not only for security reasons. But, here is France and the right to demonstrate is a part of their democracy.

The banned march was allowed one hour before it started and the crowd started walking. The group of mostly young people in their 20’s was dancing in their colorful clothes; it was more of a festival than a protest march. 

Giant balloons symbolizing cobblestones were passed out. I went to the frontlines and came across a young person from Turkey who was among the drummers making the background music of the march. He was a journalism student in Sweden; he came all the way from there to Paris. 

The drums silenced now and then and the main slogan of the march echoed: 

“What do we want?” The answer was, “Climate Justice.” Somebody asked, “When?” Thousands answered “Now.”

Posters condemning oil and coal were carried. There was no tear gas, no water cannons and no police vehicles. There were a few police officers who smiled at us and even guided the demonstrators. 

I was happy because even for one day I was able to inhale democracy. 

The smile that landed on my face during the protest action stayed there for the entire day, even after I departed.

Life is full of ups and downs. The day I returned to Turkey, I had a sharp fall into reality when I learned that two young people were shot during a protest march in southeastern Diyarbakır.

Happiness was replaced by disappointment, by a rebellious feeling against my own realities. 

Some of us who are able to travel abroad can inhale the clean air now and then.