#OccupyGezi: Memes as Collective Therapy for Protestors

June 6, 2013 | Justin Wedes

Justin Wedes of Occupy Wall Street is reporting from the front lines of the protests in Turkey for ANIMAL all week. He’s also tweeting from the field continuously. 

As the protests spread across Turkey, the dust has temporarily settled in Istanbul proper. But online, meme riots rage on as young tech-savvy protesters take to Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and more to share images of resistance ranging from deeply touching to lulzy hilarious.

Several playful, prominent symbols have emerged: Penguins for example, in mocking defiance of the mainstream media that streamed polar documentaries while protesters faced off against water cannons and tear gas.

The penguins are seen in stenciled graffiti flapping wing at 60 degrees to their fascist leader Tayyip, or in newly-printed comic books with fat bureaucrats plotting more overarching social policies.

The Twitter bird flies with a gas mask donned over the hashtag #OccupyGezi.

Even a new word entered Urban Dictionary this week from the protests: “Chapulling,” an anglicized version of the Turkish çapulcu, Prime Minister Erdogan’s branding of the Gezi Park occupiers as “looters, vagabonds.”

The memes and constant stream of protest imagery show a playful popularization of the protests, as more and more labor groups, professionals and local residents join in support of the protest. They also serve to assuage the painful trauma felt by many of the youth who report having been beaten and psychologically tortured by police during skirmishes in the past two weeks. Perhaps, most importantly, they express honestly and in real-time the evolving fears and hopes of the protesters as they confront the dual realities of a growing resistance and a calculated, escalating state response.

The following images are taken GeziParki.me — a site aggregating all things #OccupyGezi, set-up by Igal Nassima at 319 Scholes, Brooklyn art gallery, and now, a pop-up “hackathon” tech relief center for protestors in Istanbul(Facebook group.)


This is “a guide” on how to dress for Days 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the protests.