Harlem Shake Illegal in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s Cultural Capital

Teen Faces Fine Over Dance
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
March 6, 2013

A teenager was charged with holding an unauthorized assembly after being detained at a Harlem Shake flash mob in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

Vasily Zabelov, 17, is seen on a video on the Fontanka.ru website being led by two policemen to a police car following the flash mob, which drew hundreds to a site near the Galereya shopping center next to the Moscow Railway Station on Ligovsky Prospekt.

In answer to a question from a reporter asking what Zabelov was being detained for, one of the policemen in the video tells the reporter to contact the police’s press service.

Speaking on Tuesday, Zabelov said he was held for two-and-a-half hours at a police precinct before charges were pressed. He said that his case will be heard by the commission of minors’ affairs, rather than in court, because of his age.

He described himself as the event’s chief organizer, saying that he used some help from a friend to get sound equipment and a camera.

According to Zabelov, the event drew 300 people, who were then joined by passers-by, increasing the number to 500. He said he was a student welder at the Russian College of Traditional Culture.

Earlier, Zabelov told the RIA Novosti news agency that he faced a fine of 10,000 to 50,000 rubles ($325-$1,630) and that he would appeal to online communities if fined.

Zabelov said he took his detention “in a negative way.”

“In my view, the government should give people the right to relax and have some fun. It’s not a political rally or anything, is it?” he said.

Harlem Shake is an Internet meme that peaked in popularity last month.

Groups of costumed people gather unexpectedly at different, often unlikely locations across the world to perform a wild dance to the track “Harlem Shake” by American DJ and producer Baauer. Videos of the event are later uploaded to the Internet.

The police said that “policemen stopped the unsanctioned event,” Interfax reported, but the police’s claim was denied by Zabelov and other participants who say police stepped in after the event finished. Two St. Petersburg residents were said to have called police, saying that that the event obstructed pedestrians.

In the past 12 months, St. Petersburg police have dispersed — and detained some participants of — a number of unlikely non-political events held by local teenagers. These included a pillow fight, a snowball fight and a Michael Jackson memorial event.

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Filed under international affairs, Russian society, urban movements (right to the city)

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