“A Bunch of Marginal Marauders” or Millions United under an ‘Overlapping Consensus’ to Topple Down the Government?

It has been almost a week since scores of protestors initiated a resistance movement (#DirenGezi) against the incumbent government and its anti-democratic discourse and practices. What had begun as a peaceful sit-down against the demolition of Gezi Park by a few hundred unfolded into massive anti-government demonstrations by hundreds of thousands, even millions across the country. The number of protestors has been soaring ever since despite or maybe due to the spontaneous and dynamic nature of the demonstrations. So has the level of police brutality and violence.

I was in Taksim and Beşiktaş the last few days starting from morning hours till late at night. I was one of the many who suffered from excessive police brutality, and I dare to say, state terrorism. The first water cannon and tear gas attack came in Siraselviler Street in Taksim, where we could at least seek shelter in side streets and nearby cafes, restaurants and houses. In Beşiktaş, however, we were caught unprepared and had nowhere to escape when the police tanks (known as TOMAs, or social intervention vehicles) marched towards unarmed and peaceful protestors and began firing tear gas bombs and water cannons randomly and incessantly at us. I saw thousands trying not to run over fellow protestors while running for their lives. I saw hundreds vomiting tear gas even hours after the TOMA attack, me being one of them.

But who are all these people anyway, suffocating under the thick smoke of tear gas? Why have they gone out to streets in the first place? Who mobilized them? Are they really “a bunch of marginal marauders… manipulated by the opposition” as the Turkish Prime Minister claims?

The simple answer is, NO!

Yesterday, at Gezi Park, my sister and I walked around the park and made spontaneous interviews with fellow protestors that we randomly picked, just to find out ‘who we were’. Amongst those that we talked were Kemalists, socialists, communists, ultra-nationalists, gays and lesbians, Armenians, Kurds, supporters of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), supporters of the Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi), women wearing headscarves, revolutionary Muslims, fans of big football clubs, just ordinary people of all ages, identities and socio-economic backgrounds. Except for the members of a few political party groups, no one had invited or mobilized them. Not all of them shared the same political ideology. To the contrary! Some held completely rival political views with other fellow protestors. Some were not politically oriented at all and did not refrain from admitting that. Most of them were participating in a mass demonstration for the first time in their lives, had brought their children, grandchildren or grandparents with them.

However, all of these protestors had a common denominator: there was ‘an overlapping consensus‘, albeit a silent one, uniting those that represented different ‘comprehensive doctrines” as John Rawls would put it, or who did not champion any doctrine. This is an overlapping consensus on the urgency to topple down the incumbent government and put an end to its anti-democratic practices. This is an overlapping consensus on the urgency to rebuild solidarity and re-forge social bonds amongst fellow citizens, which were long severed.

Turkish Prime Minister keeps saying, “… this is not merely about a couple of trees.. ” Ditto, Mr. Erdogan! Of course it isn’t. Looking at the past few days, I can safely say that it never actually was about a couple of trees. Just as it was never about “a bunch of marauders manipulated by” anyone! Millions are out there filling the streets of Turkey demanding you to step down.

Pin back your ears, Mr. Prime Minister!

Or else, it will be too late!