Turkish pepper gas march
No it is not as patriotic as “Bella Ciao” of Italian partisans. Nor as traditional as Israel’s “Hava Nagila,” as revolutionary as “La Marseillaise,” as political as the “International” or as popular as “We are the champions” by Queen.
But it became a symbol of the Taksim protests and started to be sung from day one by the protestors whenever they were gassed by the police. Right after they recovered from the chokes and tears they gathered again in minutes and started to chant this march, as a slogan against the police.
There is no hatred in it, no nasty words, no propaganda, no radicalization, but challenge in the most naive and pure form.
It is unanimous; it was written by Turkish football fans when they first tasted the pepper gas, probably in the 2006-2007 season when police started to use gas to calm down and disperse the tribunes.
The English translation of the lyrics goes something like this:
Shoot it me, shoot it at me
Shoot some pepper gas at me
Doff your helmet, down your baton
Then we’ll see who’s ready to flee
The question is why among, other dozens of slogans and marches, this one became the symbol of the biggest ever wave of protests that Turkey has ever seen?
It is not only because of the excessive use of force and pepper gas as a part of that force by the police.
More than that, it is about the nature and profile of the protesters. Especially in Istanbul, where the protests have first started, there were only a handful of urban activists who had very little experience about what to do, how to protect themselves during a confrontation with police forces.
There were militant groups on the left who were actually looking for an opportunity to do so, or parliamentary political parties with their ability to carry masses there, but neither of them realized the “enough is enough” potential of the Gezi Park protest.
The football fans did. Like Al Ahli and Zamalek fans, shelving their rivalry aside and assuming responsibility to protect and maintain order of the crowds in Tahrir square in Egypt, being the only ones around who have the experience cope with the cops, Turkish ultras joined Taksim as if it was the most natural thing to do. Fans belong to the “Çarşı” group of Beşiktaş, “UltraAslan” group of Galatasaray and “Genç Fenerbahçeliler” of Fenerbahçe, who under normal circumstances would get in fierce fight if they saw each other on their side of the street, got together with their jerseys, flags and all that and started to chant slogans and songs against the government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Soon, fans of rival Izmir teams Göztepe and Karşıyaka, Gençlerbrliği of Ankara, Bursaspor of Bursa did the same in their cities in support of Taksim in Istanbul.
Most of those were highly apolitical and contained a lot of insulting words in them, like many other tribune songs and slogans in Turkey.
But the bulk of the protestors were young men and women born in the early 1990s, highly individualist, raised by playing computer games, educated and they did not like the insulting ones but quickly adopted the pepper gas march, known in Turkish as “Sık bakalım,” meaning “bring it on,” or “shoot it at me” as translated here, as they were exposed to gas more and more.
And if you want to know what it sounds like, the following are the notes for it.
You can see a group of people chanting 'tear gas march' during the protests in Istanbul's Beşiktaş: