8th of July will go down in Gezi Park history as the day the park was officially “re-opened”, then closed, and opened once more. Sounds like a game, no? Well that game ended up with at least 48 people being taken into police custody (confirmed), hoards of them getting injured, several critically, one 17 year old currently in intensive care nursing a brain concussion as he got hit by a tear gas canister.
This meaningless debacle started with an “official” park “re-opening” ceremony (called on by the former occupiers of the park as an oxymoron, as how can one re-open a park that is supposed to be open to the public by definition. Confused? You are not alone) attended by the Governor, run by the Governor, with the Mayor merely standing next to him, unable to get in a word edgewise as the Governor delivered his long monologue to the press.
“The Park is now open” he said, adding a list of “do”s and “don’t”s: to those who want to enjoy the shade, it is allowed; to those who will congregate, it is not allowed, yet it is still not clear how many people make up a congregation, as once we showed up at our beloved park, in under half an hour the riot police re-entered the park, kicked us out, closed off the square and started their man-hunt in the streets and alleys of the Cihangir and Beyoglu neighborhoods that lead down from Taksim to the waterfront. The chase continued until 2 a.m. Then the park was re-opened once again, and the unrelenting public re-entered their park, exhausted. Beyoglu continued to be a war zone.
Regardless, the Turkish Constitution declares peaceful civilian congregation and protest without any prior notice as a constitutional right. And the Park is a public park. So what is the problem, you may ask. Well, don’t bother, we have been asking that question for over a month now. The Governor who re-opens an already open park, AND declares the people can exercise their constitutional right only if they apply for a permit and are granted one before hand. Sounds a bit like an abduction of civil rights, no? Well, who am I to say, I am no lawyer (and the Governor apparently is) all I know is what my constitution says:
B. Right to Hold Meetings and Demonstration Marches
Everyone has the right to hold unarmed and peaceful meetings and demonstration marches without prior permission.
The right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall only be restricted by law on the grounds of national security, and public order, or prevention of crime commitment, public health and public morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The formalities, conditions, and procedures governing the exercise of the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall be prescribed by law.