The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1524 (86), Friday, November 6, 2009
Antifascists Beaten, Then Arrested
By Sergey Chernov
Four antifascist activists were detained by the police after being beaten by nationalists at a “Russian March” rally in St. Petersburg on People’s Unity Day, a recently introduced public holiday, on Wednesday. They were charged with disorderly conduct and forced to spend the night at a nearby police precinct before being taken to court and released at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Six activists had unfurled a banner reading “Trash nationalism” and chanted an anti-fascist slogan at a nationalist rally at the remote Polyustrovsky Park in the city’s north when they were attacked by the nationalists.
A Rosbalt video shows the antifascist protest being disrupted by a young man wearing a camouflage jacket, who ran at the protesters, kicking and punching an activist. More nationalist marchers joined the beating immediately, before the police had time to stop it. The whole antifascist protest only lasted about one minute.
“There were many of them; about five jumped on me alone,” Katya, an activist who asked for her last name to be withheld, said by phone Thursday. She described herself as “a member of the antifascist movement.”
“They surrounded us, and the first one jumped on and kicked our comrade, causing him to fall down, and the rest followed suit.”
The police, who soon intervened, detained four antifascist activists and one attacker. The detainees were brought to Police Precinct 66, where they were charged with disorderly conduct.
“We were accused of using profane language,” Katya said.
“I don’t know which of the words we used was the most profane — we were chanting “The fascists kill people, and the authorities cover it up” — perhaps ‘authorities’ [was the most profane word.]
“But you could say that the slogan we were chanting came true, because the fascists jumped on us, and the authorities arrested us — even though we were standing there peacefully without going for anybody. We simply came and expressed our opinion about the gathering.”
On their way to court on Thursday, the detainees were taken to the Interior Ministry department to have their fingerprints taken. They refused because the procedure cannot by law be insisted upon for minor offences, according to Katya.
“They took offence, but didn’t beat us,” she said.
At the activists’ request, the judge transferred their cases to their respective local courts. The offense they were charged with is typically punished with a 500 to 1,000 ruble ($17 to $34) fine. However, offenders can alternatively be sentenced to up to 15 days in custody.
Organized by the Slavic Union, the “Russian March” drew around 250 activists from different nationalist groups, including extreme ones. Formed in 1999, the Slavic Union (Slavyansky Soyuz) describes itself as “national-socialist,” frequently abbreviates its name to “SS” and uses a swastika-like symbol as its emblem.
The People’s Unity Day holiday was introduced in 2005 as a replacement for the Great October Socialist Revolution Day (the Day of Accord and Reconciliation since 1996), formerly celebrated on Nov. 7. The new holiday marks a 1612 victory over the Poles.
From its inception, the holiday has been used by nationalists for holding “Russian Marches,” nationalist rallies held in a number of Russian cities. In St. Petersburg on Wednesday, the nationalists, unhindered by the police, chanted “Russia Is for Russians” and openly racist slogans.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, United Russia officials and their “supporters” were also hollering Slava Rossii! (“Glory to Russia!”), just like the fascists who beat up our comrades. Go figure. (Watch the video here.)