“We Declare A Hunger Strike”

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[00:01] We, the artists of Saint Petersburg, are forced to declare a hunger strike.

[00:06] The time has come to make a life drawing of the horror!

[00:12] “Liberty. Equality. Piracy. Pirate Street Party. May 1, 10:00 a.m. Saint Petersburg, Oktyabrsky Concert Hall”

[00:25] “Six Billion Pirates”

[01:38] “Everyone Come Out to the Plein Air!”

[02:10] Dima:What’s going on here?

[02:14] Flor: We’re on a hunger strike.

[02:17] Dima: Why?

[02:20–04:07] Flor: We want our demands to be met. I can even tell you what our demands are. First, on May 1, our art project, the Pirate Street Party, was shut down. Initially we got [official] permission to hold the event, but then the OMON [riot police] detained everyone. Without due cause, [the police] began fingerprinting people and putting them into their database of “extremists.” And so we’re here to show them that we’re not extremists but artists.

Our second demand is also connected with this “post-May Day syndrome.” After a flash mob on May 1 in Novosibirsk, the police planted narcotics on our colleague and Leonid’s friend Artem Loskutov and put him in jail. We demand that he be released on recognizance instead of sitting in a temporary detention facility [while his case is being investigated].

Our third demand is for the authorities to get to the bottom of this strange [Interior Ministry Unit], the Center for Extremism Prevention. This is the eighth day of our hunger strike.

[04:10] Dima: You’ve chosen this site. It’s clear that the authorities don’t permit [you] to display any political demands or slogans [here]. This place isn’t even marked as a place where people are on a hunger strike. How did you decide to take such radical steps? We haven’t seen anything like this in recent times: it’s really a historic event.

[04:36–05:25] Flor: Even when you get a permit for an art action, the authorities simply hold this permit in contempt. We’ve taken this step because there is no need to get permission to hold a plein-air session. That we’re also on a hunger strike is something we publicize in the media because here we can’t advertise that fact—it is categorically forbidden to hold mass protests in this place [the Parterre Garden of the Smolny Institute]. We chose the most provocative option so that [the powers that be] will understand that art can’t be extinguished.

[05:27–06:16] Flor: We made serious preparations. On the one hand, this is a palette, an ordinary item. But we had to prepare it so that it [also functioned as] a shield. But it’s also totally smeared with paint. Thus we were ready to do battle with the cops and cover them with paint. We had planned to tie one hand to this chain. It was actually attached [to this bench], and when we arrived we immediately chained ourselves to it. We intended to fight off [the cops] with this shield while chained to the bench. It would have been impossible [for them] to drag [us] along with this canvas and the easel into an ordinary police van.

[06:17–07:15] Nastya: We’re in a situation where the political police are actively evolving in Russia. Acts of civil disobedience are the only solution. Such acts should be within the bounds of the law, as it were, but such a surprise for the authorities that they won’t know how to react. Because everything we’re doing is legal, so to speak, and there is no reason to remove us. Moreover, we’re the ones who are abiding by the law, unlike the authorities, who don’t obey their own laws, but could care less about them. That is why we don’t know what to expect from the authorities. We don’t know who will be the next person jailed on fabricated charges. Absolutely anyone could be [their next target].

[07:16–08:34] Leonid: Our action is part of a very big campaign of solidarity with the artist Artem Loskutov, who has been imprisoned precisely for his activities as an artist. They want to put him away for several years on the basis of a fabricated charge. [Solidarity] actions have been happening in dozens of cities throughout Russia. We’re on a hunger strike here, and our goal is to get Loskutov released.

Today we learned that an anarchist in Barnaul, a city not far from Novosibirsk, has joined our hunger strike: he announced that he will continue his hunger strike until Loskutov is released. We are forced to do this with such radical methods as a hunger strike—we’re practically prepared to die—in order to defend the law. And yet the cops show up here continually and demand that we show them a permit for the hunger strike. They try to convince us what we’re doing is illegal. So we have to defend the law by means of this step towards death, and at the same time the cops jerk us around all the time by trying to convince us that we’re violating that very same law.

Flor: Moreover, we’re anarchists. It’s a totally absurd situation.

[08:35–09:31] Leonid: We’re getting active support, mostly from people in the Petersburg anarchist community. People come and bring us warm things, mineral water, and tea. They also just help us hang on through their simple presence here.

The newspapers are writing about us, although during the first days the situation was complicated because the local police didn’t let the press in and detained journalists. They threatened everyone they shipped out of here that there would be consequences if their reports showed up on the Internet. One way or another, however, we’ve managed to break through the information blockade, mostly via blogs and journalists we know.

[09:32–09:56] Leonid: We plan to continue our hunger strike until June 10 because that’s when the [next] hearing of Artem Loskutov’s [case] will happen, and we hope that something changes then. Also, the Saint Petersburg Municipal Commission on Human Rights will be meeting, and perhaps they’ll decide to open a criminal investigation into the absolutely illegal arrest of our absolutely legal May Day Street Party.

[09:57–10:06] Flor: “Plein air” is drawing [or painting] from life. We’re depicting Smolny [i.e., the Petersburg authorities] and our attitude towards them.

[11:10] June 9 is a day of solidarity actions in support of Loskutov and to defend everyone from police terror.

[11:16] Protest! Otherwise, tomorrow this will affect you!!!

[11:21] The Hunger-Striking Artists: Nastya, Flor, Leonid, Yulia

[11:27] Music by Hands on the Blanket (Ruki na odeyalo)

[11:31] Photos of the dispersal of the Pirate Street Party courtesy of Indymedia

[11:35] Camera and editing: Dmitry Vilensky (Chto Delat)

1 Comment

Filed under activism, contemporary art, film and video, political repression, protests, Russian society

One response to ““We Declare A Hunger Strike”

  1. Pingback: The Petersburg Hunger Strike: An Interview with Leonid Gegen « chtodelat news

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