May Day: The Missing Stanza (Saint Petersburg)

May Day: The Missing Stanza

Directed by S. Krainykhvzlgliadov and Eugene Nevermind; voiceover texts by the directors and Bertolt Brecht

Who? The [May Day] column organized by the Center for Workers’ Mutual Aid (TsVR)

Today is May 1, 2011. The place: Petersburg.

TsVR’s column has been given a permit [to march] by the authorities. The groups planning to march in this column include trade unionists, the Rubezh union [of co-op garage owners], Novoprof [a newly formed trade unions association], organizations protesting the eviction of residents from [former factory and workers’] dormitories, the Petersburg Parents organization and school teachers, as well as university students and instructors who are in solidarity with them, leftist political groups, Autonomous Action, anarchists, the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA), and the Russian Socialist Movement.

May 1 is [officially known as] the Day of Labor and Spring, but the majority have come for a demonstration. May 1 is the only day of the year in Petersburg when it is permitted to march down the city’s central thoroughfare and voice one’s demands. All the other days of the year, the city is shut down tight against such demands. City Hall diverts protest actions to the ghetto of the bedroom districts and encircles them with metal detectors and ranks of riot police.

Activist: First, we’ve come to once again voice our civic stance. We’ve merged with TsVR’s May Day column in order to say once again to the authorities that we remember everything. We remember Parnas, and sooner or later someone will have to pay for this.

What? The police

Come here, they say.
You’re a good man.
You’re incorruptible.
But so is the lightning that strikes a house.
You don’t back down from what you said before.
But what was it that you said?
You’re honest: you say what’s on your mind.
But what’s on your mind?

Who? The oppressed

The classical Marxist definition of the state as a coercive apparatus remains true for Russia today. The police, the militia, and other [expletive deleted] are incapable of countenancing a critical stance towards the world they defend. Their argument is the billy club and superior numbers. [Russian] society has become inured to direct violence on the part of the state and right-wingers. The use of brute force has become the norm in politics. The crisis of political power and society exposes chains adorned with flowers.

Man off camera: He cannot tell me why those people were detained.
Police commander: So you’ve stopped your column and don’t want to go any further, right? So now you have to fold up your flags and disperse, or else you’ll be charged with an administrative offense.

You are bold,
But in the struggle against whom?
You are intelligent,
But whom does your intelligence serve?
You are not concerned about your own gain,
But whose gain are you concerned about?
You are a good friend,
But are you a good friend of good people?
Listen, friend!
We know you are our enemy.

Police commander: …cans of mace, paint cans, knives, and so forth – things [the law says] have to be investigated at a police precinct. […] As far as I know it was anarchists who were detained, on whom we found knives, cans of mace….
Man off camera: What sorts of knives?! Hunting knives? I also have a knife in my pocket: I always carry it.
Police commander: Well, I don’t [carry a knife].
Second man off camera: Did you search the fascists to see what they’re carrying?
Police commander: Fascists? There are no fascists here.

Who? Those who show solidarity

Activist: We have to stay here as long as possible, until a confrontation begins.
Man off camera: But what are we going to do if they took [the anarchists] away?
Activist: Let [the police] bring them back. It’s their fucking problem: they arrested part of [our] column.

Activist with megaphone: [This is] lawlessness directed against absolutely innocent people, against the participants of this demonstration. Comrades of ours who were marching in our TsVR column have just been arrested. These actions on the part of the police were not explained in any way. Therefore we are not moving this spot until our comrades and fellow marchers are released.

Forty members of our May Day demonstration have been arrested. For us, the demonstration is not a demonstration if our friends are not with us. Solidarity. So-li-da-ri-ty. It’s not a empty word for us, but rather the only means for confronting violence.

Petersburg, 2011

_____

Anarchists Arrested Ahead of May Day Celebrations
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
May 4, 2011

St. Petersburg authorities arrested dozens of anarchists and left-wing activists to prevent them from marching as part of the May Day demonstrations on Nevsky Prospekt on Sunday.

Spearheaded by St. Petersburg Governor and pro-Kremlin party United Russia member Valentina Matviyenko, a wide range of political parties and movements, trade unions and pressure groups took part in the demonstrations.

The main demands of the opposition in St. Petersburg were the dismissal of Matviyenko and the restoration of gubernatorial elections that were abolished by then-President Vladimir Putin in 2005.

More than 50 anarchists, including 14 minors, were approached by the police at the assembly point on Ligovsky Prospekt and arrested without any reason given, they say. Videos uploaded on anarchists’ web sites show them being dragged roughly into a police bus while trying to raise an anti-Nazi banner and shouting, “Down with the police state!”

The arrested activists were due to march as part of a column of leftist groups led by the Center for Workers’ Mutual Aid (TsVR), which had been authorized by City Hall. The other activists in the column refused to march until the anarchists were released, and remained at the gathering point, preventing columns of democrats and nationalists from moving forward for some time.

In a report on the TsVR Livejournal.com community blog, they said they stood on the spot for an hour and a half and left only when police threatened to disperse and arrest them.

According to Tatyana, an anarchist who did not wish her last name to appear in print, the arrested activists were charged with violating the regulations on holding public events and failing to obey police orders.

Later, seven more anarchists were arrested when they attempted to block the United Russia column — the largest group in the march, estimated by officials to number between 15,000 and 20,000 supporters — on Nevsky Prospekt. The police promptly dragged the anarchists away after they lay down on the ground and interlocked their arms. Later, two managed to escape from the police precinct they were taken to, while another two were sentenced to two and three days in prison, respectively.

Two years ago, more than 100 anarchists were arrested in a similar manner — despite having a permit from City Hall — before they started their May Day march, but last year they were allowed to march on Nevsky Prospekt. They moved down the street in a close group wrapped in banners, with their arms interlocked to counteract possible arrests.

Commenting on the arrests on 100 TV channel the same day, Matviyenko claimed that “every political party or group that was legal was allowed to march on Nevsky.”

Under the Soviets, people were asked to participate in marches to demonstrate their support for the state and the party either to obtain benefits or under mild threat. In modern Russia, the holiday has remained, though it has been renamed from International Workers’ Solidarity Day to Spring and Labor Day.

Although the ultranationalist Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) was banned by Moscow City Court a week ahead of May Day, the nationalists had no problem in marching in St. Petersburg on Sunday. City Hall had authorized their demo when they applied as private citizens.

In the same television interview, Matviyenko denied that nationalists had taken part in the rallies, despite the fact that they marched on Nevsky with “imperial” Russian flags and nationalist banners.

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender) activists were not authorized to take part in the marches by City Hall. They were invited to hold a standup meeting instead in a distant park, but late last week they were told that the site would be occupied by a different event.

City Hall’s new suggestion for the LGBT group Ravnopraviye (Equality) was to hold a meeting outside the city, at a location described by an activist as a field between a forest and a lake.

Eventually, a small group of LGBT activists joined the democratic group featuring the Yabloko Democratic Party and Solidarity Democratic Movement, marching with rainbow flags and posters.

One hundred and eighty activists of The Other Russia party, twelve members of which are under criminal investigation for alleged extremism, marched with the banner “You Can’t Jail Everybody” and shouted slogans against Putin and Matviyenko. No one was arrested.

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Filed under activism, film and video, leftist movements, political repression, protests, Russian society, trade unions

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