Petersburg: Flying Demos and Illegal Flyers

This just in from our comrades in the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA):

At 7:00 p.m. today (February 20), outside the Akademicheskaya metro station in Petersburg, anarchists and DSPA activists carried out their latest action. This action, dubbed a “flying demo,” has long ago shown itself to be a eye-catching, effective, and safe way of bringing the revolutionary word to drowsy citizens and citizenettes.

dpp_38952Around a dozen young people suddenly appeared opposite the exit from the metro station. They quickly unfurled a banner bearing Kropotkin’s famous slogan and lighted flares. One of the activists mounted the pedestal of a non-functioning electronic advertising billboard and addressed bewildered city dwellers streaming from the subway. His fiery speech went something like this:

Citizens, stop! The economic crisis is advancing on our country. The authorities are lying to you. Assistance is going only to the capitalists. Prices are rising; a wave of layoffs is under way. Things are only getting worse for the common man. Enough of being patient! We must decide everything ourselves. We must unite in order to become a force: only then will we be able to change our lives for the better. Begin with little things. Don’t abandon your colleague who has been laid off. Help your hungry neighbor. Form mutual aid councils!

The action lasted around two minutes. The activists ended it by shouting, “Rights Aren’t Given, They’re Taken!” They then extinguished their flares and dispersed.

During the action, two activists handed out these flyers [in Russian] to startled bystanders.

News of this flying demo set off a minor mini-debate on the efficacy and purpose of such actions. Well-known Moscow anarchist and journalist Vlad Tupikin, in a post in his LiveJournal entitled “Two Minutes of Fame,” wondered aloud what could be accomplished in two minutes. He concluded that, far from explaining one’s stance to fellow citizens or persuading them to switch sides, all that the flying demonstrators managed to do was carry out a photo shoot and get their LiveJournal account of the action in Yandex’s top of the Internet charts rating. He called the action “pure PR.”

The following day (February 21), as if in confirmation of DSPA’s tactical stance that it is dangerous to assemble in one place for more than two minutes without permission, police detained Stanislav Rudenko, an independent candidate for the 62nd Municipal District (Piskarevka) in Saint Petersburg. As reported by a correspondent on the Legal Team’s LiveJournal, Rudenko was conducting an open-air meeting with potential voters at the intersection of Kondratievsky Prospect and Bliukher Street, when a police squad car pulled up. The policemen explained that that they had information that Rudenko’s campaign flyers were “incorrect.” They detained Rudenko and took him to the 21st Precinct. The correspondent added that, according to Russian law, candidates enjoy (theoretical) immunity from prosecution for the duration of election campaigns. 

Elections for Petersburg’s municipal councils take place March 1. As the journalistic cliché goes, the campaign has been marked by massive irregularities. Dmitry Gryzlov, son of State Duma speaker and United Russia torchbearer Boris Gryzlov, had his candidacy registered by the city’s elections board even after a district board had declared that 100% of the signatures he had gathered were fakes. Would that the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other independent candidates (from the city’s opposition parties and social movements) had such influential fathers. Their support petitions have been struck down en masse (although, in some cases, court challenges have got them reinstated), and now, it appears, police have been going door to door to intimidate some of the folks who signed those petitions. The tone for this latest blitzkrieg in defense of “sovereign democracy” was set on the eve of the campaign by Petersburg’s No. 1 gendarme, Vladislav Piotrovsky. At a local Interior Ministry collegium on January 19, he warned that, in connection with the economic crisis, local human rights organizations and social movements would step up their activities and that they would be helped in this task by the foreign spy services (of course!) that finance their “extremism.” Their primary short-term goal, Piotrovsky explained, would be to win as many spots in the upcoming municipal elections as possible.

After gutting every other remnant of political democracy in Russia, one of the Kremlin’s hobbyhorses in the past few years has been local self-governance (mestnoe samoupravlenie), as expressed (so they said) by (nearly powerless and totally underfunded) district councils and residential building co-ops (which have also been red-taped to death, when they haven’t been subjected to stiffer forms of repression). In fact, any kind of meaningful democracy is a hindrance to the plans of gangster capitalism (is there any other kind?) to turn Russia’s cities into backwater hellholes, its citizens into a docile population of (now no longer very powerful) consumers. So God forbid that a handful of “extremists” on “foreign payrolls” would get the chance to decide which streets in their neighborhoods get paved first.

Rights aren’t given. They’re taken.

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Filed under activism, political repression, protests, Russian society

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