Alongside Tam-Tams and street vendors, in a setting far away from tear gas-clouded Gezi Park in Istanbul, around 100 demonstrators gathered in Mount Royal Park last Sunday at 2 p.m. in solidarity with the Occupy Gezi movement in Turkey.
The demonstration was the second in an ongoing series of Sunday park protests that seek for democratic values to be upheld in Turkey, and demand the resignation of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
McGill Engineering undergraduate student Melih Cem Olcusenler originally conceived the idea for a park protest. After putting a call-out over the Turkish Students’ Society of McGill University Facebook group, Olcusenler co-organized the first Sunday demonstration with McGill alumni Suna Tatlipinar and Merve Sancak.
“Stay strong Turkey. Montreal is with you,” read one of the signs at the latest Sunday protest. Another read, “They got the guns. But, we’ve got the numbers.”
Sancak, a McGill graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Middle East Studies and History, started the afternoon by calling out for a moment of silence to honour those who were reported killed under police repression at the Occupy Gezi protests in Turkey. Protesters wore black to mourn those lost. This was followed by the singing of the national anthem of Turkey, which was composed after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire to mark the coming of a Turkish republic.
Chants that followed were shouted in Turkish, French, and English. Popular Turkish songs were sung with altered lyrics, accompanied by traditional Turkish instruments.
Sancak said the songs “talk about how police gas individuals but [the protesters] don’t care about it.”
“I have no backup from any organization in [the] Turkish community,” Sancak said. “I’m doing this so my friends in Turkey see that we are with them.”
Heavily criticizing Erdoğan’s track record of representing only the Turkish citizens who voted for him and his “fascist” policy making, Sancak said some have been describing the movement as “another War of Independence.”
“Erdoğan has called all supporters for the Occupy Gezi çapulcu, or looters,” Sancak stated, adding that the protesters have embraced the insult, which can also translate into marauder or freebooter.
“We say we are all çapulcu, and we all çapulling,” Sancak said.
Québec solidaire’s Amir Khadir, a Member of the National Assembly of Quebec, also attended the demonstration on behalf of his party to show support for what he described as a “popular movement.”
In an interview with The Daily, Khadir praised “the re-appropriation of democratic space by the people,” comparing the Occupy Gezi movement with the Maple Spring, where hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Montreal at around the same time last year.
Speaking of Erdoğan’s “authoritarian government,” Khadir said, “We don’t need to go to Turkey to see that. We remind everyone that just last year here, for around the same issues, the popular movement [asked] the government to consider people’s rights, to consider common good [in making] decision[s].”
Demonstrations in solidarity with Occupy Gezi will continue in Mount Royal Park every Sunday at 2 p.m.
“Turkish people – write that down – they don’t like to be oppressed,” said Sancak.