As public buses carried thousands to a pro-government rally Turkish police chased protesters out of Taksim Square and vicinity, attacking a hotel and a hospital. In a show of brute force they gassed the famous Divan Hotel, which had allowed its premises to be used as an infirmary for the wounded. Governor of Istanbul urged doctors not to help the wounded protesters and warned that volunteers would be prosecuted. Several doctors and medical students were arrested. A water cannon sprayed the German Hospital’s emergency entrance. There were reports that the water sprayed on protesters was laced with pepper spray. Some protesters were treated for burns and skin inflammation. In response to accusations of use of chemical weapons Governor said the water was only medicated and no chemicals were used. It was reported that some 450 people were arrested yesterday in Istanbul and other cities and taken to unknown locations. Amnesty International issued a public request today to the government to disclose the whereabouts of detainees so they could see their families and receive proper legal representation.
Addressing a crowd estimated to be over a hundred thousand Prime Minister Erdogan lashed out yesterday at CNN, BBC and Reuters, accusing the international media of misrepresenting events in Turkey. He said Turkish democracy is the victim of an international conspiracy. He was especially critical of the European Parliament who, he said, had no right to intervene in Turkey’s internal affairs. His U.S.-educated Minister of EU Affairs Egemen Bagis posted a press release today advising European countries such as France and Germany to look first at their own double standards. He said Turkey is no banana republic and PM Erdogan is the most charismatic leader in the world. He promised that the terrorists would be dealt with appropriately, which means that a wave of arrests is in the offing. According to some reports the government is seeking a way to have the protesters declared members of a criminal organisation, which would effectively suspend most of their basic legal rights.
Protests began over 3 weeks ago over the government’s plans to redevelop a park adjacent to Taksim Square and turned into anti-government riots across the country. PM Erdogan met with citizen groups last week and decided that the issue would go to a referendum if the court approved the development plans. This is a lot more than what Canadians generally get from their “democratically” elected municipal, provincial and federal governments. In 1990 Prime Minister Mulroney sent the army against Mohawk Indians who had occupied a strip of old Indian burial grounds in Oka, Quebec that was slated to be developed as a golf course. One person died in the incident. All the “terrorists” were arrested and prosecuted.
A similar incident took place in 1995 at Gustafsen Lake in BC when 400-strong RCMP special units backed by the army attacked and arrested Indian protesters, declared “terrorists” by the government. Whether it’s Indians or the mainstream population, Canada’s local, regional and national governments rarely consult with the public on policy, development or property issues and placing an issue on referendum is almost unheard of. If they decide that a project is in public interest they will often expropriate individuals or businesses without any compensation. Property rights aren’t enshrined in Canada’s constitution, and the first section of the Canadian Charter of Rights allow governments to suspend rights if they deem it to be in public interest. Some of the most reprehensible cases of abuse of power in BC are the Canada Line Cambie Merchants story, and Vancouver Mayor Robertson’s stupid bike lanes, which is an environmental and commercial disaster.
The only notable exception is the 2011 referendum and abolition of BC’s HST (Harmonised Sales Tax) , which couldn’t have been done if former Premier Vander Zalm hadn’t mobilised the petition process. Members of BC’s Liberal Cabinet are still fuming over his involvement since this was the first time in Canada’s history that a majority government had to lick its spit. Sadly, no amount of citizen protest will move the government to backtrack on a decision unless a public figure like Vander Zalm mobilizes it.
Prime Minister Harper, elected on 39-percent of the vote, radically altered Canada’s foreign policy without so much as a parliamentary debate. Likewise, he’s been pursuing foreign trade deals and free market agreements conducted mostly behind closed doors. He’s been legislating his own vision of Canada without any effective opposition. Ottawa announced the other day that 11 federal agencies involved in national security would be enshrouded in a thicker veil of secrecy protected by the Criminal Code, presumably to prevent U.S.-style whistle-blowing in government. Abuse of power by democratically elected governments and parliamentary majorities imposing their will on the minority are universal issues that are not unique to Turkey. Canada isn’t really a better democracy than Turkey, the differences being a matter of style and not substance. There’s nothing that Prime Minister Erdogan has done recently that prime Minister Harper wouldn’t have done under the same circumstances, but he would’ve done it a little bit differently to avoid unnecessary force and confrontation.