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Occupygezi, also known as 2013 Taksim Gezi Park Protests, was a series of protests that erupted across Turkey in response to the government’s announcement of a redevelopment plan to replace Gezi Park, one of the few remaining green spaces on the European side of Istanbul, with a reconstruction of the former Taksim Military Barracks that will house a shopping mall once completed.
On May 28th, 2013, the first wave of protests began when a group of 50 environmentalists occupied the premise of Gezi Park in central Istanbul in order to prevent the walls from being bulldozed. During the standoff, Turkish police resorted to using violent force with tear gas and water cannons, which only aggravated the public sentiments against the redevelopment plan and prompted more citizens to join the occupation. As of June 3rd, similar protests have been reported from up to 90 cities across the country.
Following the Turkish police forces’ violent crackdown against the protesters in Gezi Park, many Turkish users on Twitter and Facebook began sharing pictures and videos from the scene with the hashtag #Occupygezi, while calling on others to take a stance by joining the protests. Soon, what began as a peaceful demonstration quickly escalated into a nation-wide riot against the ruling party and the police, joined by other factions of political parties.
News Media Coverage
As noted by the foreign journalists covering the uprising, Turkish news media outlets largely ignored the escalating violence in the streets while Turkish Telecommunication unsuccessfully tried to censor sensitive discussions about the protests in social media. On June 1st, Bloomberg’s Turkey bureau chief Benjamin Harvey tweeted a picture of a documentary about penguins being aired on CNN-Turk, which was reaffirmed by a side-by-side comparison of CNN-Turk and CNN International broadcasts uploaded via OccupyGezi Tumblr blog.
Following Prime Minister Erdogan’s public condemnation of the demonstrators as “Çapulcu” (meaning “looter” or “marauder” in Turkish), activists across the country and international supporters quickly adopted the term for re-appropriation and began identifying themselves as “Çapulcu” (or in its anglicized form “chapuller”) with a new meaning of “fighting for one’s rights.”
On June 4th, Turkish YouTuber ESCApelsin uploaded a parody music video titled “Everyday I’m Capuling,” pairing a montage of video clips from the protest sites and the chorus line from LMFAO’s 2011 dance pop single Party Rock Anthem (shown below):
On June 5th, five unique entries defining the term “chapulling” in its newfound meaning were submitted to Urban Dictionary, where they received more than 1580 upvotes and a single downvote in aggregate. On the following day, Urban Dictionary user Senibulcamoglum submitted an entry defining “chapulling” in its traditional sense as used by Erdogan, which has been one-sidedly panned with seven upvotes and 70 downvotes.
Chapulling is a new word discovered in Taksim Gezi Park / Istanbul/ Turkey.
Chapulling(verb): Resistance to force, demand justice, seek one’s right.
I chapull everyday,
I chapulled yesterday,
I will chapull soon,
I was chapulling when the police attack us,
I’ve been chapulling for 6 days,
I haven’t chapulled yet.
Meanwhile on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, Turkish protesters and their international sympathizers began sharing pictures of themselves with a banner sign containing the term “chapulling,” as well as pairing up other inspiring imageries of protest symbols throughout the history with the neologism.
In the following days, BBC, Aljazeera, Guardian mentioned this news. Turkish hashtags against the project and the Turkish goverment became the most discussed hashtags on twitter. On Reddit the crime against the humanity has been frontpaged. Few 4chan threads have been opened on /b/ or /pol/.
<a href="https://twitter.com/mfaturkey">mfaturkey</a> When can we expect an end to your state's terrorism against its own people? & your resignation? (Not a matter of if, but when)</p>— Anonymous (YourAnonNews) 1 Haziran 2013
On June 1st, Turkish internet users launched a Google Maps document to plot the location of police barricades and emergency medical centers near the protest sites in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. As of June 5th, the map has been viewed more than 56,000 times.
View Istanbul Polis Hareketleri in a larger map
Social Media Crackdown
On June 3rd, Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan condemned Twitter and other social media outlets for “spreading lies” and inciting violence during an interview with the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet.
There is this curse called Twitter. It’s all lies … That thing called social media is the curse of society today.
All these lies [on social media]. [Refers to some false rumors]. You write all that, not everyone sees the correction.
On the following day, Turkish state news media reported that the police detained at least 25 Twitter users on charges of “instigating public hatred ad animosity” and spreading “misleading and libelous information.” According to the reports, police tracked down the activists through their IP addresses and raided 38 addresses in the western city of Izmir, from where several YouTube clips showing police brutality against protesters have emerged since the protests began. Meanwhile, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) asserted that they were detained for urging people to protest and stated that they have sent lawyers to assist the arrested.
Forced Eviction of Gezi Park
On June 15th, Turkish prime minister Erdogan demanded an end to the illegal occupation of Gezi Park and ordered Taksim Square to be evacuated. By 8 p.m. local time, the police had started clearing the premise with the aid of water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets, while the protesters reported that more than one hundred occupants were wounded as a result of forced evacuation. Taksim Square was subsequently re-opened to traffic under heavy guard by the police, according to the news reports.
The Standing Man
On the evening of June 17th, Turkish choreographer Erdem Gunduz arrived at the now-cleared Taksim Square and proceeded to stand still while facing the Ataturk Cultural Center. As hours went by, pedestrians began to notice Gunduz’ silent protest in peace and several passersby joined in by standing alongside him. Soon, images and videos of the silent protester began circulating on Twitter with the hashtags #duranadam and #standingman, leading even more people to show up in Taksim Square. When the head count of protesters began to grow by hundreds, police eventually dispersed the crowd and arrested.
The hashtags also triggered numerous copycat protests in other cities of Turkey as well as outside of the country. On June 18th, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators congregated in Taksim Square to stage a peaceful stand-in protest.
The Daily Dot – CNN-Turk airs penguin documentary during Istanbul riots
The Daily Dot – Turkish protesters use Google Maps to keep tabs on police
The Atlantic – The Tear-Gassed Dogs in Turkey Will Break Your Heart
The Atlantic Wire – The Turkish Protests Have a Meme: The Standing Man