Mass Protests in Turkey Against New McDonald's Store

(Middle East Technical University)

23st July 1998

Actions against McDonald's started right after it was opened in the campus of METU. The protests continue and become more intensive day-by-day. McDonald's is living its last days in METU.

A campaign against McDonald's was started by the student members of the Party for Socialist Power(SIP) . The frame of the campaign was explained in a pamphlet entitled " McDonald's - the culturelessness of imperialism", prepared by the SIP's monthly journal for university students 'Dü?ünce ve Eylem (Conscience and Action)'.

This pamphlet emphasises the fact that McDonald's is the symbol of imperialism and the imperialist culture by its intensive labour exploitation, hostility against the workers, plunder of natural resources, indifference towards the health of humans and children, racism and chauvinism, being the representative and missioner of the yankee culture. Also the ideological purposes underlying in opening a McDonald's in the university were brought into the light and everybody was called to stand against this attack of imperialism.

The campaign has won the support and participation of an increasing number of students. The first edition of the pamphlet, which had a print run of 5,000 sold out in a few days. The amount of professors and lecturers supporting the campaign against McDonald's and buying the pamphlet reached 90%. It was discussed at almost all places of the university, at dormitories, at dining halls, at lecture rooms, even at Internet.

Eleven student clubs, deciding to act together, arranged activities against McDonald's at the end of April. They organised a panel discussion, they played movies, the environment club opened a stand. The other scheduled activities were stopped by the rectorate of the university since the campaign had become a headache. It gained a large support from all over the university. The students attending MayDay celebrations under the placard of METU, carried their slogans against McDonald's to this platform.

A petition campaign is also underway and is a means of sharing the enthusiasm of the anti-imperialist awakening among thousands of METU students. 4000 signatures were collected within the first week.

The Demonstrations held in the Alternative Festival of the Students:

These are just some of the actions which ten thousands of METU students have taken part in. A festival, held as an alternative to the official university administration's festival between 13-15 May saw a sharp rise in anti-imperialist activity. On the first day of the festival, the US flag was set on fire. This was just the opening ceremony! The second day, was the day on which students assembled at the 'REVOLUTION' carving in the university stadium, carved by the '68 generation. Each year students traditionally mark this event by writing


in candles in the stadium. This year, they also planned to write 'Mc, Get Out'. So, on the second day, students entered the stadium, making sure that the gendarmes did not search them on the way in. Thousands of fliers were handed out by the student members of the SIP which read "Down with McDonald's". Revolutionary students, who wrote 'REVOLUTION' every year on the field in spite of the wire fence, the gendarme and every kind of obstacle, showed their determination this year as well. They pushed against the doors, tearing them off their hinges, to get into the field. As the candles arranged in the field by the students were lit, the words 'REVOLUTION' and 'Mc, GET OUT' shone out. At the same time, placards were displayed, with the words: "NO TO MCDONALD'S", "MCDONALD'S GO HOME", "YANKEE! GO HOME AND TAKE YOUR BASES, YOUR SOLDIERS AND YOUR CULTURE WITH YOU!"

'Bulutsuzluk Özlemi' (an alternative rock group) supported the demonstration. The vocalist of the group said that the students were nourishing the anti-imperialist tradition in METU and they would not go to McDonald's even if they were given free hamburgers. Ten thousand students chanted slogans and the manager of McDonald's was terrified. He obviously began to worry about the future of the big McDonald's balloon that was tied to the roof of the building and brought it down before the concert was over. After the concert, students ran all over the stadium with their placards and walked through the dormitories chanting slogans. On the third day of the festival, the campaign continued with the collection of signatures, selling of pamphlets and handing out of leaflets in the stands. Most METU student societies are participating in these demonstrations. The director of culture, who had been trying to stop the actions against McDonald's from the beginning, was spotted near a stall, swiping a pamphlet. The rector was watching the students behind the placard that read " Yankee! Go home and take your bases, your soldiers and your culture with you!" while his deputy bravely came forward to buy a pamphlet from the stall.

The school administration was so anxious about the campaign against McDonald's that it spent one million and two thousand dollars on it. ( The Building of McDonald's is being protected by the gendarme. )

The gendarmes detained 8 students on the second day of the festival but they were set free on the third day. However, the gendarmes delivered their big blow on the evening of the third day. Three members of SIP, students of METU, were detained while leaving the school. They were beaten and interrogated and put in cells that were smaller than two meters square. They were set free two days later.

The struggle tradition of METU was raised once again after a long time by the protests against McDonald's. With this campaign the anti-imperialist struggle was nourished and revolutionary vigour was refreshed. We can say that this liveliness will not end with the closure of McDonald's. This is only the beginning!

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