Pothole and May Day
ÖZGÜR MUMCUIf we were in another country, everybody would have reacted normally that May Day celebrations were diverted to another square because of the construction at Taksim Square.
A series of governments banned Taksim Square for years for May Day celebrations. There was no permission to commemorate those who died in 1977 and to heal the wounds. Taksim was won back the hard way.
The declaration of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that May 1 is a public holiday and the opening of Taksim Square for three consecutive years for May Day celebrations came after quite a number of gas bombs, water cannon charges and beatings. We need to name it correctly: The workers pressed and took Taksim.
It was obvious that both the holiday and Taksim Square were given by the government unwillingly. Yesterday, the government took revenge for the unwilling step back it had taken. Also, it happened under the supervision of Interior Minister Muammer Güler, who had turned May Days in Istanbul into balls of gas and dust while he was the governor of Istanbul.
He had experience.
Trade unions, political parties and nongovernmental organizations were concerned that this year’s ban would become permanent. They were suspicious that the memory of those killed there in 1977 and the marks of the political struggle of labor would be erased by a cement shopping center. When asked whether this ban would be permanent, the new gas expert of Istanbul, Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu, diluted the subject by answering, “We are talking about this year.”
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on the other hand, was clearer. He said: “We have prepared two new squares. Let’s not hold rallies at such places anymore.” What he said next was the preview of what happened yesterday: “The insistence on Taksim Square at this moment would make me say that this is organized against the AKP government. I understand that from this.”
This is how things work here.
When the gas tactics of the governor, who has been elevated to the position of a Cabinet minister, did not work well, then you allow celebrations at Taksim, as he did in 2010. Moreover, you boast about the ability to organize celebrations there.
You, moreover, say: “May 1, 2012, is the concrete memorial of how much Turkey has changed, how it has knocked down its taboos, how it has overcome the status quo and how it has shed its fears of agitation and provocation.”
Then, things change; calculations are different. All of a sudden in 2013, it is said, “Let’s not organize rallies there anymore.”
The taboos that were supposedly knocked down in 2010 are presented before you, this time magnified. The agitation and provocations that were not supposed to be feared in 2010, have now entered the language today disguised under the phrase “marginal groups.”
Yesterday, the abundance of police could have used their energy to provide security at and around Taksim Square instead of spending it hurling gas bombs, even into buildings and hospital yards.
Nonetheless, the prime minister has this time declared that any celebration in Taksim was against the AKP. Thus, the minister, the governor and the police were not shy in demonstrating an AKP will made of steel.
Taksim, as of yesterday, has been closed to May Day. From that Taksim pothole, a building which is the product of the prime minister’s personal caprice will rise.
Those who try to celebrate Labor Day on May 1 will be able to find a place in Taksim from now on as long as they raise their credit card debts in that shopping mall.
The pothole that is continuously expanding is the proof of the government’s stance of “Give an inch, take a yard.”
This pothole will further grow, swallowing everything that the government declares anti-AKP.
Özgür Mumcu is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published May 2. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.