Early on, Prime Minister Erdoğan refused to refer to the Gezi Park protesters as a civil movement comprised of various demographics. Instead, he dismissed them as “marginal groups” and as misbehaving “çapulcus,” a term meaning marauder, low-life, riffraff, or bum. As with so many of Erdoğan’s bombastic edicts, both the terms “marginal” and “bum” went through the movement’s satirical machinery. In the process, the “marginals” came to denote the now vocal center, while “çapulcu” served as a descriptor for anyone resisting state oppression and corruption while concurrently demanding the rule of law, freedom of speech, and a truly participatory democracy. The honorific title of çapulcu thus became the highest badge of merit for anyone taking part in the Gezi Park demonstrations. What’s more, the term became so widespread that it spawned its very own Wikipedia entry, television channel, and related commercial products.
Besides its semantic turnabout, the term çapulcu benefited from the movement’s musical output, which played a key role in mobilizing demonstrators both online and in the park. At its genesis, no doubt, was the musical video “Everyday I’m Çapullin’,” which coopted the title of LMFAO’s “Everyday I’m Shufflin’.” This new protest tune was set to a mosaic of excerpted videos of the demonstrations, including a protester wearing a gas mask performing Michael Jackson’s moonwalk along with the dance moves to the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” in the midst of a confrontation with the police.