Furious groups crowded in a certain district of the city... Justified reasons for their claims... Marches that go from being an act of resistance to an act of protest... Setting the neighborhood on fire... Destroying the security of life and property... Interventions by security forces and a multitude of wounded and casualties...
This is not Adawiya Square in Cairo or Independence Square in Kiev: In fact, these are all a brief summary of what was experienced 144 years ago in Paris. Nowadays, similar protests are seen from Wall Street to the streets of London, from countries in North Africa to cities in Australia, and many other places.
In the last three years due to such protests regimes were toppled in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Ukraine, and a civil war started in Syria, while governments were changed in Jordan, Oman, Morocco, Kuwait and Lebanon. Again, social peace and order was severely disrupted in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Sudan, Algeria and Israel.
Such uprisings are not novel in the history of our world. The revolution in France of 1830 that commenced with demands for more freedoms resulted in the abdication of Charles X from the throne and similar protests spread throughout Europe. The time span for this propagation took 18 years, not two years as in our day. There were massive protests in the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Portugal, Poland and Belgium. Revolts were initiated with requests of freedom in 1830, but a materialist and communist doctrine dominated the squares in 1848 when these demonstrations soon turned out to be an instance of class struggle.[i]
The protest that initiated with good reasons for protecting the trees in Gezi Park eventually turned out to be an attempted revolution under the leadership of instigators of communist organizations in the same way as 200 years ago. The demands on the banners put up by the group naming themselves as the May 31st Taksim Revolutionary Struggle Solidarity Platform demonstrated the communist direction of the protests. Some of their requests were as follows: resignation of the government and delegation of power to people, abolition of the police force and the army, nationalization of the banks and foreign trade on behalf of the working class.
It was possible to detect the same communist drift in the leading movements that started in Wall Street and New York’s Zucotti Park on September 17th, 2011 with the repercussions of the Arab Spring. The perpetrator of the first of these protests, which would then spread to 951 cities in 82 countries, was the Adbusters Media Foundation of Canada. Adbusters announcing its work on environmentalism in its website openly declares its communist identity as below:
“… finally pull off the glorious emancipatory revolution the left has so long hoped for, we must become meme warriors who, through the use of culture jamming, spark a wave of epiphanies that shatter the consumerist worldview.”[ii]
Surely, it is not possible to assert that all mass protests hold communist intentions or are organized by the communists. The protests that are carried out with justified reasons, within the framework of democratic rights and not impairing social peace and order should be held as blameless. However, such demonstrations are susceptible to being transformed into rehearsals of a communist uprising quite easily.
In all democracies, rights for carrying out mass protests are defined as a legal right based on law. As a matter of fact, just as in many Western countries, Turkish law states: “As per the provisions of this law, without asking for a preliminary permit, everyone, on the condition of not bearing arms or attacking, has the right of assembly and demonstration marches for specific reasons that are not considered to be an act of crime according to law.”[iii] In addition to this, some essential principles need to be preserved in such assemblies and protests; in particular, there should be no violation of others’ rights and security and order should not be disrupted.
However, when these provisions are not kept, and the protest turns out to be an occupation of that part of the city and the duration of this occupation extends beyond normal protests, it is likely for uncontrollable elements to be a part of such moves. Foreign intelligence agents and marginal groups, with very different agendas than the protestors, may easily infiltrate the crowds. Occasionally, as seen in the Istanbul Gezi Park incidents, the assembly is terrorized in a short time by means of professional activists who are experts on directing crowds. That is a manner of exploitation by the militants of certain parties that cannot even win 1% of the votes in elections and who can operate in this way and make an impact in the future of the country by means of such demonstrations .
The subsequent tension in the community results in a dilemma for the state that is forced to make a preference between democracy and establishing authority. If protests are not allowed, then exhaustive criticism pours down like rain with allegations of no democracy in the country or violation of individual rights.
Quite often , governments aspire to overcome the incident and put an end to the rising crisis, so they resort to use of excessive force. Once protests are allowed immunity they interfere with social peace and stability. That interferes with various security issues and impedes education and commerce in the country. Then what should states do if they encounter angry crowds?
One sometimes reaches strikingly real and different conclusions when evaluating such topics from a different perspective given all the necessary facts and information, despite previous conclusions based on false assumptions. Such a different outcome is often surprising given that our psychological bias without facts might lead us to believe “there is no other way,” and yet there could be. Not excluding but embracing, not humiliating but appreciating, not disregarding but dignifying, not sustaining the right to live for only one’s own selfish motives and reasons, but sacrificing for others and keeping an open mind, is in fact in the essence of good morals that everyone needs to possess.
When persons of such morality take on responsibility amongst the protestors or the officers of state, they can prevent such protests based on justified reasons from turning into manifestations of mass insanity.
[i] Siyasi Tarih-1 (Political History), T.C. Anatolian University Publication, No:2694, 2012, p. 111
[iii] Law on Assembly and Demonstration Marches, Article 3