Sparks are flying in Turkey after the death of a tree in Gezi Park drove tens of thousands of protesters to the streets. The people have thrown up barricades Paris Commune-style, strapped on gas masks, and given the establishment the middle finger (or “schlap,” in Turkey, made by thrusting a fist with thumb between index and middle finger through a cupped second hand with enough velocity to audibly “schlap” the wrist).
The police are responding with tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons, while the ruling AKP party took to the airwaves, branding the protesters extremists, terrorists, marauders, and alcoholics. But one word has stuck the most, directed repeatedly by
What is chapulling?
Chapulling is the 21st-century version of getting up / standing up for your rights. It includes the classic protestation methods of marching, chanting, and stone throwing, but adds a more tech-savvy, digital approach with striking iconography, media mashups, and intensive social networking. It doesn’t just keep spirits up, but helps broadcast the revolution all over the globe.
Where can I go chapulling?
Anywhere there’s a protest against “the man,” especially those led by “Occupy” offshoots. Zuccotti Park in New York is a good place to begin, but to represent the most legit form, take a flight to Istanbul and head to Taksim Square.
What do I need to bring?
In addition to a hefty set of gonads, bring noises makers (pots and pans being the local favorite) and a blank placard to fill in onsite with a pithy slogan of your choice. Fashion-wise, bring body and face coverings in case the gas flies. Red bandanas are especially useful when combined with goggles, but can’t compete with a full gas mask. A Guy Fawkes mask is also acceptable, but is a poor filter.
Bring bandages in case of exploding material, milk to neutralize pepper gas, and vinegar for orange gas. Definitely get GPS connected, and have your passport on standby as a last resort.
Can I bring my Darth Vader costume?
Yes! Ironic pop culture humor is a big part of chapulling. Memes are flowing liberally on social networks with references to Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Kurt Cobain. Onsite, protesters tango in gas masks and dervishes spin among various tongue-in-cheek costumes. Most notable are the penguins, a jab at CNN Turk, which broadcast a penguin documentary during the worst of the riots.
Where do I stand?
As festive and friendly as the atmosphere is, try to keep at least 50 yards behind the front line, especially at night. Cops are showing little restraint in gassing, spraying, and beating protesters or unfortunate passersby. The most serious injuries (and one death) have come from protesters being hit with gas canisters at close range.
Who’s the bad guy?
Feel free to shout down the classic conservative powers of government, business, and media. In Turkey, this means anyone connected to the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party). Top of the dung heap is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (“Tayyip” to his detractors), who’s bullying megalomania has earned him Photoshop mashups with Hitler, Dracula, Darth Vader, Don Corleone, and even a roasted turkey.
What do I say?
For Turks, emotion trumps content, so what you say is less important than how you say it. But the graffiti now covering most buildings in Taksim will give you plenty of ideas, like: “The more you spray the bigger we get,” “All together or not at all!” and “Tear gas is our national drink.” In a pinch, just say you’re chapulling.
Where can I learn more about chapulling?
Chapulling may take place in the street, but its headquarters are firmly online, especially after Erdoğan called Twitter a “menace to society” and had a few dozen users arrested. DirenGeziParki is the best to follow, albeit many posts are in Turkish. Their Facebook page has a bit more English, plus photography.