On May 28, protesters
occupied a central green space in Istanbul to stop bulldozers from razing it to
the ground. The demolition is part of a government redevelopment plan that
includes construction of a new mall and luxury housing.
Local authorities sent riot police to disperse
those gathered in Taksim Gezi Park, authorizing the use of water cannons and pepper
spray. Newspapers reported that several
protester tents were set on fire, which increased the resolve of those gathered
in the park.
According to unconfirmed
reports from protesters on the ground, more than 10,000 people are now
occupying the square. Several members of parliament have visited the site,
calling on Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas to halt demolition plans and engage in open dialog
with the protesters.
Gezi Park is no larger
than a traffic island, but in a city that suffers from congestion, rampant real
estate speculation and lack of green space, many see its destruction as
unchecked privatization. Protesters are decrying the lack of transparency about
plans for the area’s redevelopment, and see it as part of a growing trend that
privileges global investors over local residents. They see the redevelopment of
Gezi Park as the latest in a chain of urban development projects — such as Galataport and a third bridge across the Bosphorus — that threaten to displace
working-class communities and degrade local environmental conditions.
Activists are using
Twitter to gather support. The hashtag #DirenGeziParki has been tweeted over 50,000 times in the past three
days, and #OccupyGezi is being used to attract
international attention. Photos from the occupation are appearing daily on the Occupy Gezi Tumblr site.
In an age of
increasing privatization of public space, parks are important sites of
resistance. From Zucotti to Gezi, people are enacting their right to the city,
a right to participative and consultative urban development.
* To read the original article, click here.