Most people in North America have become aware of the on-going protest in Turkey, fewer know about the one in Brazil. These two events have some things in common but are being handled in different ways and their respective outcomes may prove important in determining how this kind of protest is handled in the future.In Turkey, authorities decided to take down some trees in a park in order to build something or other. People gathered in the park to protest the removal of the trees and police moved in to break up the protest with overwhelming force. Tear gas and rubber bullets were freely used, violent force all out of proportion to the threat presented by the crowd, composed of ordinary tax-paying folks who just wanted a say in what was going on.
In Brazil, the government announced a sudden 6% increase in bus fares. People gathered to protest and police moved in to break up the protest with overwhelming force. Tear gas and rubber bullets were freely used, violent force all out of proportion to the threat presented by the crowd, composed of ordinary tax-paying folks who just wanted a say in what was going on.In both cases, people around the world were shocked by the harsh police response. A protest over trees? Over bus fares? Good people met with the kind of force usually reserved for black anarchist G-8 protestors or the like, unemployed, shiftless, troublemakers who break windows and so on.
Turkey has responded, so far, by increasing the level of force employed against the protestors. Observers wonder why President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is so adamant about cutting down these trees. Perhaps the answer is that this level of force has long been part of Turkish law and order, only now it is nice people being clubbed.In Brazil, after the initial violent response, President Dilma Roussef has ordered the police to lighten up and, in a public statement to the nation, congratulated the protestors on demonstrating the strength of democracy and the civility of the people — or something like that. Anyway, bus fares will not be hiked up.
It is clear that the state, in both instances, has the resources and the will to employ a very high level of violence, if necessary. The difference is that Brazil has determined that, this time, it isn’t necessary. And there is a difference in the leadership: Turkey’s Erdogan has indicated that he will never back down, no matter how silly he looks. When President Roussef was booed at the Confederations Cup soccer match, she was visibly shaken – this was not how she saw her presidency proceeding. Perhaps her background as an anti-government protestor back in Brazil’s bad old days, pre-Lula, has something to do with her response. Or perhaps she is just worried about a possible boycott of the World Cup to be hosted by Brazil next year. Erdogan once served time in prison for anti-government speech but is now associated with military elements of the Turkish establishment. He is a guy used to being obeyed. Or maybe he’s just having a bad moment and will change his mind tomorrow.Erdogan claims that terrorists and anti-government forces are behind the Turkish protests. It is true that communist parties are very visible in news photos, but they seem to be exploiting the situation rather than creating it. Roussef is one of those Bolivaristo-types, and thus supposed to be a Leftist. Brazilian protestors don’t appear to be Rightists. Demonstrators in both countries are using Facebook and other internet opportunities. The protestors have their own popular hero moments that were met with idiotic police responses: Turkey’s Standing Man and Brazil’s V-for-Vinegar Salad Uprising. The two protestts demonstrate crowd control globalism, by the fact that the police in both countries are using tear gas manufactured in Brazil.
Now what happens next? If Brazil protests continue, and they may, will that validate Erdogan’s hard-line stand? If Turkey slides into chaos, after years of peace and prosperity, will that cause other leaders to think twice about subscribing to such violence? There have been an awful lot of citizen protests the last few years — the Occupy events, the California university confrontations, Quebec’s printemps érable, Idle No More, and the establishment favorite: the Arab Spring. There seems a lot of pressure building up and, unless governments figure out how to get a handle on the problem, they might wind up with something serious on their hands.