When people see my work it’s often they ask: ‘Why gas masks?’ I hope to express and reflect the duality of our world, both our love for consumer goods within Hip-Hop like sneakers and also the cold reality that we live in a troubled world – filled with atrocities of war, civil unrest and seemingly certain environmental downfall. Sadly enough, it seems every couple of months the gas mask as a symbol proves itself even more rich in relevancy. The streets of Istanbul have been the scenes of “riots” as police use excessive force in attempts to clear out and silence protesters. The violence started when peaceful protesters were attacked physically and with tear gas as they protested the destruction of Gezi Park to make way for a shopping mall. Videos also show plain clothes policemen setting fire to protesters’ tents and belongings. The people of Turkey* are reacting to the Authoritarian actions of their government in the past few years. The protesters are taking a stand against a number of things but it seems to be best summarized in their ad in the New York Times:
We demand an end to police brutality.
We demand a free media.
We demand open democratic dialogue between citizens and those elected to public service, not the dictates of special interests.
We demand an investigation of the government’s recent abuse of power, which has led to the loss of innocent lives.
“People of Turkey have spoken: We will not be oppressed!
Millions are outraged by the violent reaction of their government to a peaceful protest aimed at saving Istanbul’s Gezi Park.
Outraged, yet not surprised.
Over the course of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s ten-year term, we have witnessed a steady erosion of our civil rights and freedoms. Arrests of numerous journalists, artists, and elected officials and restrictions on freedom of speech, minorities’ and women’s rights all demonstrate that the ruling party is not serious about democracy.
Time and again, the Prime Minister has mocked and trivialized his nation’s concerns while Turkey’s own media have remained shamefully silent.
The people protesting bravely throughout Turkey are ordinary citizens. We span several generations and represent a spectrum of ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, ideological, sexual, and gender identities. We stand united because of our concern for Turkey’s future. Our future.”
The Prime Minister has threatened that where 20 protesters are he’ll bring 200,000 police; where they bring 100,000 he will bring 1,000,000 of his men… sounds like a threat against the people of Turkey to me. Tear gas is not a political weapon, it is a declaration of war against citizens fighting for human rights. With the US government acting more and more like Big Brother everyday (for example the recent realization that Verizon has been handing over our data and cell records to the NSA for surveillance), we have to be aware that the day may come to take to the streets ourselves. When it does we can hope that our government would react with less of an assault on its citizens but we all know the fight for civil and human rights looks more like this… or this. -FP
*Mostly “urban, secular youths” but reports say Conservatives are siding against the government’s use of force and tactics as well.