Daily Archives: August 3, 2010

“F…ing Animals, Who Else Wants Some?” (Petersburg, 31 July 2010)

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1597 (58), Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Police Brutally Disperse Protest
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

Activists and journalists are demanding an investigation into beatings and arbitrary arrests made Saturday at a peaceful rally in defense of the constitutional right of assembly. People were punched and hit with police batons, dragged by their hair, pushed face-first against a police bus and half-strangled inside the bus.

Three detained men were taken to hospital from the police precincts where they were being held, while an old woman who fell to the ground after being pushed by a police officer was taken to hospital from the site of the rally — outside Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt.

Sixty nine were detained during several waves of brutal arrests in the rally, which was part of Strategy 31, the civil campaign demanding the right to assemble peacefully that has been held across Russia since July 2009 on the 31st day of the months with 31 days. The campaign is not affiliated to any single political party.

The day was chosen by oppositional politician and author Eduard Limonov because the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, is guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian Constitution.

Since its inception, the campaign’s rallies have not once been authorized by the authorities in St. Petersburg or Moscow, where protesters gather on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad.

In St. Petersburg, an estimated 500 came to Gostiny Dvor metro station on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare. The protest was launched by Andrei Dmitriyev, the local leader of Limonov’s banned National Bolshevik Party (NBP), who spoke surrounded by supporters with their arms linked in order to make arrests more difficult.

“The whole country is with us today; Strategy 31 events are taking place across the country — from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad,” he shouted.

“The number 31 has become sacred for the political opposition. Article 31 is needed by all the political forces, whatever their ideology, it’s also needed by ordinary passersby.”

The protesters, many of whom wore T-shirts with the number 31 printed on them, deliberately refrained from using megaphones or banners, without which their protest could not officially be qualified as a rally.

But the police rushed to detain participants, who shouted “Russia Will Be Free” and “Freedom,” after an officer speaking into a megaphone claimed that the event was illegal and ordered people to disperse.

The police acted more brutally than during the three previous rallies held in St. Petersburg since Jan. 31. People shouted “Fascists” and “Killers” in response to the police’s actions.

Activists are trying to establish the name of one particular officer who hit a young man in the face with a rubber baton. The officer walked through the crowd shouting “F***ing animals, who else wants some?” Before this incident, he was seen dragging a young woman to a police bus by her hair.

One man, whose head was deliberately rammed into a police bus, was then seen sitting inside the bus near the window with his face covered in blood.

Although the police did not detain journalists during the previous events, three photographers were detained during Saturday’s protest, which lasted for about 40 minutes.

They were charged with “participating in a unsanctioned rally” and “disobeying police orders.” Alexander Astafyev of Moi Rayon weekly newspaper said he was detained when he took a picture of the policemen relaxing after making a wave of arrests.

“One pointed at me and said, ‘I wish you were dead,’ with a smile,” Astafyev said Monday. He was then seized by several policemen and carried to the bus, during which a policeman damaged his camera. Another photographer, Mikhail Obozov of Yevropeyets newspaper, was detained while taking a picture of an old woman lying on the ground after being pushed by a police officer.

A policeman struck Obozov’s camera lens and his photographs were deleted, Astafyev said.

The photographers, who are now waiting for their court summons, have written a complaint to the St. Petersburg Union of Journalists, he said.

Andrei Konstantinov, chair of the St. Petersburg Union of Journalists, said Monday that the detained photographers were being provided with legal support by the union.

“Our lawyers will examine what really happened and then we’ll hold a secretariat meeting and decide what our actions will be. It’s too early to issue any statements right now,” he said.

Strategy 31 events were held in 42 cities and towns across Russia on Saturday, according to the campaign’s organizers. In Moscow, 500 to 1,500 people came to Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, where the protest was also dispersed, with more than 80 people arrested, including former first deputy minister and current Solidarity democratic movement leader Boris Nemtsov.

The statement said that the police acted far more brutally in St. Petersburg than in Moscow.

In St. Petersburg, those detained were taken to four different police stations and released at about midnight, more than five hours after being detained, Dmitriyev said Sunday. Most were charged with “participating in an unsanctioned rally,” while several were also charged with “disobeying police orders,” a more serious offense punishable by up to 15 days in prison.

“The police are acting more and more roughly, with some officers breaking every limit, in particular the one who smashed the man’s head [into the bus] and dragged a young woman to the bus by her hair,” Dmitriyev said.

“We will find the people who were beaten and file complaints to the prosecutor. To stop this from happening again, we’ll invite the local ombudsman and rights activists to our next rally, scheduled for Aug. 31. Hopefully, it will dampen the rage of the uniformed men a little.”

A police spokesman declined to comment Monday.

Photos by Sergey Chernov. See his full photo reportage of the demonstration here.

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Defending the Khimki Forest, 2 August 2010

As described in this post on our blog yesterday, on 2 August 2010, regular police (aided by OMON riot cops) arrested a number of liberal and leftist activists (including Sergei Mitrokhin, Sergei Udaltsov, and Ilya Budraitskis) who had come to a site near the Khimki Forest to meet with local residents and environmentalists to discuss what to do next in their campaign to save the forest. (The detainees were charged with “holding an unsanctioned demonstration” and “disobeying the police,” and most of them were kept in custody late into the evening as they awaited trial.) In the second part of the video, a group of environmentalists and civil rights activists make their way to  an area of the forest where logging is continuing (despite the temporary halt called while the prosecutor’s office reviews various legal claims). They encounter a small band of hired thugs along the way and apparently scare off a group of loggers. According to the titles on screen, their presence at the site succeeded in halting logging for several hours.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Source: grani-tv.ru. Video by Dmitry Zykov.

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Khimki: Police Repression as an Aid to Deforestation

Khimki Suspects Held as Logging Resumes
02 August 2010
The Moscow Times

Moscow region police said Friday that they have detained two anti-fascist activists involved in an attack on the Khimki administration building after identifying them from video footage posted online, Interfax reported.

The suspects, Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov, face up to seven years in prison on charges of hooliganism despite “weak” evidence against them, Gaskarov’s lawyer said Saturday, Gazeta.ru reported.

The attack took place Wednesday when 90 to 300 masked protesters pelted the building with stones and smoke grenades and covered the walls with graffiti opposing the destruction of the Khimki forest, slated for deforestation to make way for an $8 billion highway. Police did not arrest anyone at the scene.

The deforestation, which was supposed to be halted because of legal issues, proceeded Saturday, Ekho Moskvy radio reported, citing Yevgenia Chirikova, a leading environmentalist.

Chirikova said she has been forced to go into hiding with her young children by the police, who are visiting the apartments of environmentalists to detain them on various administrative charges in a bid to prevent a new anti-deforestation rally scheduled for Monday.

Meanwhile, Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin said he suffered a minor injury Saturday in a tussle with police officers while trying to stop the logging.

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