SAN FRANCISCO—Several hundred people gathered in front of San Francisco’s City Hall Saturday in support of protesters in Istanbul and other Turkish cities who have been in the streets protesting the Turkish authorities since Friday.
“People protesting are complaining how the democratic government is turning into a dictatorship,” said Birsen Gokcek, who is originally from Istanbul but has been living in the United States since she was 18 years old.
“Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is starting to act like a dictator, doing whatever he likes to do,” she said.
Chaos erupted in Istanbul Friday after police forcefully ended a sit-in protest against the construction of a shopping mall on park grounds. Protests intensified Saturday in Istanbul and have spread to different parts of the country.
Gokcek says that she is concerned for her family members who live in Turkey. “I feel threatened, I feel sad for Turkey,” she said.
“The democracy, the freedom of the Turkish people is under a huge threat right now, and that is scaring us. We don’t want to turn into Iran, we don’t want to turn into Syria,” she added.
Just like in Turkey, the protests in San Francisco and other cities around the world were organized on social media.
The lack of information coming from Turkish media has been criticized by both those in and outside Turkey.
“One of the things he is doing is basically controlling the press. When all this is happening in Turkey, the only place that people can find information about all that is happening is social media,” she said.
Gokcek said she wants the U.S. government to hear their concerns and recognize what is going on in Turkey. “And we want also the people in Turkey know that we live here but that our hearts are with them. We think about them, we care about them. … We cannot go to Istanbul and do this, unfortunately, but at least we are trying to get our voice heard from here,” she said.