Erdogan Declares Unilateral Authority over Speech, Threatens Violence

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has issued what the Guardian newspaper calls a “chilling warning”: he says “these protests will be over in 24 hours”. After calling nonviolent protesters “destroyers” and “enemies”, Erdogan declared “this episode is over”. He now has effectively declared his absolute, unilateral authority to accept or reject any and all attempts at democratic speech.

Observers across democratic nations allied with Turkey have expressed dismay and alarm at the unnecessarily counterproductive, violent and authoritarian reaction to what began as a sit-in protesting the destruction of a public park for commercial development. The extreme nature of Erdogan’s reaction has raised questions about whether his government somehow has existential ties to the commercial development plan.

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Stop the Violence Now

After the dignity and inspiration of the Arab Spring, what we are now witnessing in the United States has been an inspiration to millions of people who long to have a voice in their society. Yet some city governments are ordering the use of paramilitary assault tactics against unarmed civilians engaged in constitutionally protected peaceful assembly and free expression. In Oakland, we have now seen two displays of overwhelming, deliberate, combat-style police actions against unarmed civilians exercising their basic rights.

Video has emerged clearly confirming eyewitness reports that Oakland police fired directly into crowds of unarmed demonstrators with tear gas and flash-bang grenades. Scott Olsen, now famous the world over, was shot in the face when police fired “non-lethal” rubber bullets directly at protesters’ heads, at close range.  Video shows a combination flash-bang/teargas grenade being fired directly into the middle of a crowd of people attempting to tend to him as he lay bleeding on the ground.

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What is the Meaning of This?

The Occupy Wall Street movement—now being called “the American Autumn”, after the Arab Spring, or the September 17th movement, after the day it got started in lower Manhattan—is now completing four weeks on the scene. Yet we can still be astounded to hear so many incredulous “experts” unable to understand how a grassroots movement, infused with the zeitgeist of very problematic times, is working toward anything constructive. What is the meaning of this? Why don’t they have a ready-to-go list of demands? What are they asking us to think?

It’s actually very simple. It’s self-evident, but if you’re at a loss, you can also go to Zuccotti Park, or to any of the Occupy Together protest sites, and just talk to people, and what did not seem evident will rapidly become so. The meaning of the Occupy Wall Street movement that is spreading across the United States like wildfire is: democracy. The unifying sentiment, which is actively put into practice every day at Occupy encampments, is that citizens have a right to participate. They are building a participatory process to restore the principle of informed citizen participation to our political system and our economy.

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