Protesters in Istanbul Rioted to Save Their Internet
This year, Turkey’s protesters have turned their attention from small, endangered urban parks to the slightly more on-trend issue of online freedom.
The reason is that a new law was announced over the weekend that would award the Turkish government tighter control over the internet, allowing it to block websites without seeking a court ruling first. Considering that the government already controls the country’s mainstream media, it’s no surprise that news of these restrictions on the country’s primary source of objective information didn’t go down very well.
On Saturday, internet-freedom activists took their anger to Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the epicenter of last year’s Gezi Park demonstrations. Much like 2013’s protests, Turkish state police were out in force, spraying crowds with water cannons, trying to demolish their barricades, and chasing protesters off down Istikal Avenue with paintball guns. Yet the crowds regrouped and began building up more barricades down alleys and sidestreets, before police attacked them again with water cannons and gas bombs. The clashes continued late into the night, with demonstrators chanting, “Hands off my internet!”
“If I don’t stand here and protest, we will lose all our freedom,” said Ceren, a 24-year-old college student. “With Turkish mainstream media under [government] control, we only have the internet. If we lose the internet, nobody in the world would even be hearing about this protest.”