Tag Archives: Sergey Chernov

Harlem Shake Illegal in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s Cultural Capital

Teen Faces Fine Over Dance
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
March 6, 2013

A teenager was charged with holding an unauthorized assembly after being detained at a Harlem Shake flash mob in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

Vasily Zabelov, 17, is seen on a video on the Fontanka.ru website being led by two policemen to a police car following the flash mob, which drew hundreds to a site near the Galereya shopping center next to the Moscow Railway Station on Ligovsky Prospekt.

In answer to a question from a reporter asking what Zabelov was being detained for, one of the policemen in the video tells the reporter to contact the police’s press service.

Speaking on Tuesday, Zabelov said he was held for two-and-a-half hours at a police precinct before charges were pressed. He said that his case will be heard by the commission of minors’ affairs, rather than in court, because of his age.

He described himself as the event’s chief organizer, saying that he used some help from a friend to get sound equipment and a camera.

According to Zabelov, the event drew 300 people, who were then joined by passers-by, increasing the number to 500. He said he was a student welder at the Russian College of Traditional Culture.

Earlier, Zabelov told the RIA Novosti news agency that he faced a fine of 10,000 to 50,000 rubles ($325-$1,630) and that he would appeal to online communities if fined.

Zabelov said he took his detention “in a negative way.”

“In my view, the government should give people the right to relax and have some fun. It’s not a political rally or anything, is it?” he said.

Harlem Shake is an Internet meme that peaked in popularity last month.

Groups of costumed people gather unexpectedly at different, often unlikely locations across the world to perform a wild dance to the track “Harlem Shake” by American DJ and producer Baauer. Videos of the event are later uploaded to the Internet.

The police said that “policemen stopped the unsanctioned event,” Interfax reported, but the police’s claim was denied by Zabelov and other participants who say police stepped in after the event finished. Two St. Petersburg residents were said to have called police, saying that that the event obstructed pedestrians.

In the past 12 months, St. Petersburg police have dispersed — and detained some participants of — a number of unlikely non-political events held by local teenagers. These included a pillow fight, a snowball fight and a Michael Jackson memorial event.

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We Have No Honor to “Play Off”

Playoff for the Honor of Our City. Obvodny Canal, Petersburg, February 23, 2013

 

Unfortunately, we have no honor to “play off”. . .

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Gay Groups Continue to Fight Unfair Treatment
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
February 20, 2013

The small village of Novosyolki, southwest of St. Petersburg, has become City Hall’s favorite site to send St. Petersburg’s LGBT rights activists to rally, as the organizers of another protest planned this week found out when they were told that 15 sites they had suggested within the city were unavailable for their assembly. Meanwhile, a local court found no violations in City Hall’s continued refusals to let LGBT activists rally in the center.

On Monday, City Hall rejected a permit for the Democratic St. Petersburg movement to rally in the city against the national bill forbidding the “promotion of homosexuality” to minors, which is about to be accepted by the State Duma in its second hearing. It was passed in the first hearing on Jan. 25. Similar local laws have already been enacted in St. Petersburg as well as in ten other regions across Russia.

As the law on public assemblies requires the administration to suggest an alternative site if the one suggested by the organizers is unavailable, the organizers of the protest that had been planned for Sunday, Feb. 24 were told to hold it in Novosyolki.

“I didn’t go there, but I checked it on the map; it’s beyond the Ring Road, and takes two hours to get to from St. Petersburg,” said Natalya Tsymbalova, an activist with Democratic St. Petersburg and the Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality.

“There is an aerodrome, a dump and a cemetery there. It looks like they have found the most remote location which is still officially part of the city.”

According to Tsymbalova, City Hall first dismissed five suggested sites last week, saying that other events were scheduled to be held at the first four, while large-scale road maintenance works would be held at the fifth. She said the organizers had not been given the reasons for the alleged unavailability of the ten other suggested sites, which include Palace Square and St. Isaac’s Square, as well as smaller locations where other rallies are usually authorized.

Tsymbalova said the third application, containing five other suggested locations, would be submitted to City Hall shortly.

“We’re running out of time and there’s already little hope,” she said.

“They look determined not to let us go anywhere but Novosyolki.”

As the planned date of the rally approaches, chances of the rally eventually being authorized are growing slimmer.

“If they still don’t let us have a rally, we have an idea to hold a kind of flash mob by walking around all the rejected sites to see what is really happening at them on Feb. 24; to see if there are some real events taking place there or if we have been given the runaround, so we could use it in court,” Tsymbalova said.

“We’ll definitely file a complaint about this absolutely insolent and mocking rejection and we hope to win in the city court or the Supreme Court, because it’s obviously unlawful.”

On Monday, the Smolninsky District Court dismissed a complaint by LGBT rights organization Vykhod (Coming Out), which was given Novosyolki as the only available site to hold a protest against the anti-gay law ahead of its first hearing at the State Duma in December.

According to Ksenia Kirichenko, the coordinator of Vykhod’s legal aid program, a representative of City Hall described the village as the most appropriate location for such an event.

“Novosyolki is becoming a favorite tool for effectively banning LGBT rights rallies,” Kirichenko said in a news release.

In 2011, City Hall redirected the organizers of the St. Petersburg Gay Pride event to Novosyolki. Instead, an attempt to hold the rally was undertaken in the city center on Senatskaya Ploshchad, beside the Bronze Horseman monument, and resulted in arrests and fines.

According to Kirichenko, Vykhod will appeal the Vyborgsky District Court’s ruling.

Photo by Chtodelat News

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The Chtodelat News Challenge: A Friday Night on the Town in Petersburg’s Cultural Capital

As an exercise in close reading, we’d like to see what you, our readers, can make of these two hyper-fresh dispatches from Petersburg, Russia’s so-called cultural capital.

Mosque Raid Causes Outrage
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Human rights organizations in Russia, Tajikistan and Georgia on Tuesday protested mass arrests and reported harassment and beatings of mostly Central Asian and North Caucasus migrant workers during Friday’s raid on a marketplace in central St. Petersburg.

They are demanding a thorough investigation by Russian and Tajik authorities into the actions of law-enforcement officers who raided Apraksin Dvor, the marketplace in downtown St. Petersburg, during a service at a mosque on the market’s territory.

The Investigative Committee put the number of those detained at 271, but Fontanka.ru reported that “no less than 700” had been arrested, while human rights activists say that the number of arrests could be as high as 1,000.

Officially, the raid was part of a criminal investigation into “public incitement to terrorist activities or public justification of terrorism” and “inciting hatred or hostility as well as humiliation of human dignity” and was conducted jointly by several law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Security Service (FSB) and counter-extremism Center E. Smaller raids were held elsewhere in the city.

But only one person of the hundreds who were arrested is a suspect in that case.

Mass beatings were reported to have taken place during the raid at Apraksin Dvor.

“People who were victims of the mosque raid there and their relatives keep approaching us since the raid took place,” said Anna Udyarova, a lawyer with the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, on Tuesday.

“For instance, one citizen of Uzbekistan said he had gone there with his sons, the youngest of whom was 10, and security service officers had used force against him, had beaten him as well as his adult sons, and all this had happened before the eyes of his 10-year-old son.

“Witnesses who work nearby in Apraksin Dvor said about 200 people were beaten, and some sustained injuries as serious as broken arms and legs, but they refuse to file official complaints or document their injuries because they’re afraid of how the authorities will respond. But in conversation with us, they say that all the men who were at the mosque during the service were beaten.”

The only person detained as a suspect within the investigation, according to the Investigative Committee, was Murat Sarbyshev, born in Kabardino-Balkaria (a republic in the south of the Russian Federation) in 1988. He is suspected of having uploaded “extremist literature and videos depicting terrorist attacks on the Internet in a period between October 2010 and April 2011,” the Investigative Committee said in a statement Saturday.

“We are trying to understand why such a large-scale special operation was held to detain just one person — who turned out to be a citizen of Russia — and with such a large number of people suffering as the result of harassment and beatings,” Udyarova said.

“It had an intimidating effect not only on those who were at the mosque at the time, but also on all the foreign citizens, mainly of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, who are based in St. Petersburg and Russia, who learned about this incident and perceived it as a threat to themselves.”

According to Udyarova, up to 1,000 people may have been detained in the city on Friday.

“We were told that about 1,000 were detained, because this special operation took place not only in Apraksin Dvor, but in other places in the city simultaneously,” she said.

“Differences in numbers can be explained by the fact that not everybody who was detained was taken to a police precinct; only those who had problems regarding their immigration documents.

“Even if, as the Interior Ministry’s representative claimed, the objective of this campaign was not to expose illegal migrants and they were in fact looking for suspects in a criminal investigation, as usual, innocent people — foreigners — who were there are the ones who suffered.”

She said the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center will provide legal support if at least one person who is not intimidated enough to file a complaint is found.

According to the Investigative Committee, those detained included citizens of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and the regions of the North Caucasus, as well as one citizen of Egypt and one citizen of Afghanistan. Ten had personal documents showing signs of forgery, and twenty had no documents at all, the agency said in a statement Saturday.

Of those detained, seven were deported and one more was awaiting deportation in a detention center for foreigners, Interfax news agency reported Monday, citing a source in the police.

With the exception of them and the suspect Sarbyshev, all those detained during the raid were released with no charges pressed, it said.

Late on Tuesday, Interfax quoted a source with the FSB who claimed that the deported seven had links to an “international terrorist organization.”

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[…]

The polarisation of Russian nightlife is undoubtedly tied to the polarisation of wealth in Russian society. Is the arrival of places like Dom Byta [in Petersburg] — that shun the glitzy veneer that has been the hallmark aesthetic of Russian affluence since the Nineties — evidence of the emergence of a new middle class? Burtsev certainly thinks so. “A new generation has arrived that can travel, that can do projects, and the people remaining from the old generation are also willing to give things a go. They’ve made it possible to create this sort of good community.” For Burtsev, this change is starting to have a real impact on city life. “This young generation has already created its own space online,” he says. “They work in jobs like design, in a space beyond the reach of the government. And now we’re seeing people moving gradually, very gradually, to doing projects in real, concrete spaces.”

The transformation of Russia’s entertainment scene is dependent on two factors: time and travel. During the Soviet period, isolation, centralisation and a certain puritanism pushed Russian food culture to the brink of extinction: as a result foreign imports, like the ubiquitous sushi, have dominated the restaurant scene for the past two decades. But open borders have also allowed young Russian chefs, barmen and entrepreneurs to pick up best practice in Europe and America. Frequent trips to Paris, Madrid and Rome have also educated their potential audience. Along with new infrastructure such as better farms, catering schools and supply networks, which all take time to bear fruit, it’s this cosmopolitanism that has laid the foundation for the current renaissance in Russian food and drink.

An avowed Anglophile — Dom Byta has English beer on tap — Burtsev, who is just shy of 40, exemplifies the impact of Russia’s new-found wanderlust. “When we opened Solyanka six or seven years ago we were really influenced by places in London, in Shoreditch,” he says. “We would look at the people, at little details, at the general atmosphere.” His establishments meet the needs of a more educated audience: “The more people travel the more they get used to things: in London or elsewhere in Europe you can just pop in somewhere nice and get a bite to eat, or sit down and work with your laptop and feel relaxed about it.

[…]

Jamie Rann, “High spirits: what’s fuelling St Petersburg’s bar renaissance?,” The Calvert Journal

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How would you, dear readers, read these two stories together? Send us your answer (500 words or less) to our email address (chtodelatnews [at] googlemail [dot] com) or in the comments, below. We’ll post the most convincing entry on this blog as a separate, headlined posting. We’ll also mail the winner a complete set of the Chto Delat group’s popular, award-winning  songspiel films on DVD. And, as if that weren’t enough, we’ll treat the winner to a night on the town in Russia’s stunning cultural capital, Petersburg, including dinner at a restaurant featuring the cuisine of one of the city’s beloved ethnic minorities, followed by all the English tap beer they can drink at Dom Byta. (If “face control” lets us in, that is, and provided, of course, that the winner makes their own way to Petersburg.) The deadline for entries is next Friday at midnight Petersburg time (GMT + 0400).

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International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina

CHERNOV’S CHOICE
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
January 16, 2013

St. Petersburg will demonstrate solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, an imprisoned member of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, by holding a roundtable titled “Class, Gender, Politics: Russia After Pussy Riot.”

International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina will be held Wednesday, with solidarity events planned in such cities as Berlin, Bonn, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Munich, Paris and Stockholm. Check www.freepussyriot.org for more information about the events.

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The campaign is scheduled to coincide with a court hearing called to decide whether Alyokhina deserves to be released, with her sentence exchanged for a suspended one, on the grounds that she is a single mother of a young child.

The hearing will take place in the IK-28 female prison colony in Berezniki in the Perm Krai, some 2,000 kilometers southeast of St. Petersburg.

Alyokhina has reportedly encountered particularly harsh conditions in her prison colony, being repeatedly punished for alleged “oversleeping” and confined to a solitary cell. There have also been reports of hostile attitudes toward her from her fellow inmates.

Together with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, Alyokhina was sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism motivated by hatred for a religious group.”

The Kafkaesque trial, which ended in August in Moscow, saw the defendants deprived of food, water and sleep, defense witnesses ejected from the court so that they could not testify, police dogs in the courtroom and the arrests of Pussy Riot supporters outside the court — most infamously that of former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who was then accused of biting a police officer.

Samutsevich was later released on a suspended sentence.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have been in prison since March 3, 2012, when they were arrested on the eve of the Russian presidential election.

Some see the unusually severe treatment of the band’s members as revenge by Vladimir Putin, whom the band confronted and ridiculed in their performances and videos.

Pussy Riot’s support group has urged people to organize readings, music festivals of support or public events. “Any sharing of information about the lawless imprisonment of Maria is helpful and may persuade the judge to release Maria,” they wrote in a statement.

St. Petersburg’s roundtable will be held at the Center for Independent Social Research at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

One of the topics of discussion will be whether Pussy Riot’s feminism really threatened the Russian constitution, which guarantees equal rights for men and women, as the Moscow court claimed.

[…]

Poster courtesy of Las Piqueteras, a socialist organization for working women. They will be picketing the Russian Federation embassy in Buenos Aires today.

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Wikipedia and “Psycho-Hermeneutics” as Tools of Judicial Repression

‘Experts’ Use Wikipedia as Case Evidence
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
October 3, 2012

The defense said it would demand the exclusion of an expert analysis from the case as the hearings of the Trial of the Twelve continued after a two-week pause Tuesday, dismissing the prosecution’s experts as utterly incompetent and unqualified.

The defense exposed large sections of Wikipedia articles copied by the “experts,” complete with hyperlinks and formatting, a lack of specialist education and ungrounded claims in the text of the analysis, which described the secretly recorded videos of meetings of The Other Russia activists as meetings of the banned National Bolshevik Party (NBP).

If found guilty, the activists could face between two and three years in prison.

Vitaly Batov and Natalya Kryukova, who analyzed the videos for the prosecution, came from Moscow to testify in St. Petersburg’s Vyborgsky District Court, where the case is being heard. Batov was also responsible for the linguistic and sociological analysis that supported the case for prison sentences for the feminist punk band Pussy Riot this summer.

Vitaly Batov, Psycho-Hermeneuticist. Photo by Sergey Chernov

Batov and Kryukova, from the Russian Institute for Cultural Research, found that the slogan “Kill the Slave in Yourself” was a call for violence, while during the recent Pussy Riot trial, Batov found that the group’s “punk prayer” was motivated by “political and religious hatred and enmity.”

The investigators in the Trial of the Twelve turned to Batov and Kryukova, dubbed “call girl experts” by critics, after the original expert analysis conducted by St. Petersburg State University history professor David Raskin concluded that it was impossible to determine from the evidence whether the group in the videos was the NBP or any other similar group.

Kryukova spoke more than Batov, who made occasional remarks.

“I am not interested in the vids,” Batov said, when asked whether he had compared the investigators’ transcription with what was actually heard in the videos, adding, “In this respect I always take my lead from the [person commissioning the analysis].”

In his analysis, Batov said, he used software called Lingvo Express, which he created on an IBM System/3 computer in 1974. The software determines psychological peculiarities and flaws in a person from examples of their speech, he said, adding that it surpasses Western equivalents because, while they require tens of thousands of words to be able to give an accurate result, his own software can do so on the basis of just 200 words.

In addition to the software, Batov used a “psycho-hermeneutic” method that he had also invented, he said, though he admitted that the term had not taken root.

When asked whether his method is used by any other researchers, Batov, who is the author of a book called “Vladimir Vysotsky: The Psycho-Hermeneutics of [His] Work” compared the scientific community to a “zoo.”

“Innovations are only recognized after their rivals die out,” he said.

Batov said he had not undergone professional reevaluation since 1974.

While Batov said he has degrees in psychology and cultural studies, Kryukova is a math teacher.

When asked how she could conduct linguistic, psychological and sociological analysis, she said that she had taken group psychology at university for three terms.

In answer to a question about her qualifications in political studies, Kryukova replied that she had studied the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as a compulsory course at university before graduating in 1981.

Asked how the experts were able to confirm that the flag in the black and white video was the NBP’s banned red flag, Kryukova explained that black appears as black in a black and white image, while any other color appears as gray.

“This flag is definitely not black, which means it is red, because these groups use only black and red flags,” she said.

The experts saw a “call to, and a justification of, the ideology and practice of violence” in defendant Andrei Dmitriyev’s words, when he said at a secretly taped meeting that if the activists gained the support of many small organizations, City Hall “will be forced to take us into consideration.”

When asked how his words could be interpreted as a call to violence, Kryukova replied that it contained the “intention to put pressure” on the authorities, which, in the context of the group’s activities, constituted such a call.

The indictment does not contain any charges of violence.

Kryukova initially claimed that she had used various dictionaries for definitions in the expert analysis, but later admitted using Wikipedia, an anonymous online resource to which anyone can contribute.

“So what, is that a crime?” Kryukova said.

“First-year students are told not to use Wikipedia!” defense lawyer Olga Tseitlina said.

Despite the contradictions and inconsistencies of the evidence offered by Kryukova and Batov, Judge Sergei Yakovlev openly helped them by dismissing some of the defense’s questions and sometimes even answering on their behalf when they appeared to have trouble finding the right word.

“The expert analysis is the prosecution’s only evidence and we’ll be demanding it be excluded from the case at the next hearing,” Tseitlina said after the session.

The hearings in the cases of a group of The Other Russia activists opened in St. Petersburg in April. Last month, cases against four of the twelve activists were dismissed on the grounds that two years had passed since they were last detained for participating in a protest.

See Sergey Chernov’s most recent articles on the Trial of the Twelve here, here and here.

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Kafka on the Neva: Petersburg Officials Charge LGBT Activists under Anti-Gay Law after First Authorizing Then Banning Gay Pride Rally

Petersburg Gay Pride Event Banned, Organizers Charged under Anti-Gay Law
By Sergey Chernov, The St. Petersburg Times

On Thursday evening, City Hall banned the Petersburg gay pride rally it had authorized on Tuesday and formally charged organizers with violating the city’s infamous anti-gay law. But organizers said they would go ahead with the rally despite the ban.

Organizers said that City Hall explained to them that it had imposed the ban because local media had reported it as a “gay pride event (parade),” rather than a “march and a stationary rally against the violations of LGBT people’s rights,” as the event was described in the application submitted to City Hall last week.

The organizers were summoned to City Hall on Thursday and informed it was “not possible” to hold the event and that they would be held legally liable if they went ahead with it.

According to St. Petersburg Gay Pride chair Yury Gavrikov, who is also chair of the local LGBT rights organization Ravnopraviye (Equality), after handing them the official rejection notice, the head of City Hall’s law and order committee Leonid Bogdanov told him and another organizer, Sergei Volkov, that a law enforcement official wanted to talk with them.

A police officer then entered the room and charged the two activists with violating the law forbidding “promotion of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors,” Gavrikov said.

Gavrikov and Volkov were told that they since they had distributed information about the previously authorized event to the website GayRussia.ru and local newspapers Nevskoye Vremya and Metro, they had “promote[d] the social equality of same-sex relationships and traditional marriage” among minors and thus violated the law.

“It means that first they authorized the event and then charged us with giving information about it to the media,” Gavrikov said late on Thursday, adding that he and Volkov had been detained in City Hall for more than two hours.

He also said that City Hall had insisted that all the eight people who signed the application for the event come to the meeting, but authorities had not specified that its purpose would be to ban the rally and charge them with violating the anti-gay law.

Although they already face substantial fines, St. Petersburg Gay Pride organizers said they would go ahead with the rally, scheduled for Saturday, July 7, despite the ban. They will announce the time and site at a press conference scheduled for noon on Friday.

Two previous gay pride events in St. Petersburg – on Palace Square, in 2010, and on Senate Square near the Bronze Horseman monument, in 2011 – were banned by City Hall on questionable grounds, but activists attempted to hold them anyway, resulting in arrests.

Last year, the event was attacked by a number of young men, some with their faces hidden. They managed to punch at least two LGBT activists before police arrested the activists themselves.

“The authorization was rescinded due to the fact that the format of the application did not correspond to the actual event that the LGBT activists were planning to hold,” St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko’s spokesman Andrei Kibitov told RIA Novosti.

Kibitov added that the ban was also influenced by complaints from the public. “A great number of calls and emails have been received not only from St. Petersburg, but from the other Russian cities as well, asking [us] to cancel the gay parade,” he was quoted as saying.

The “anti-propaganda” law, introduced as a bill by local United Russia  deputy Vitaly Milonov in November 2011 and signed into law by Governor Poltavchenko this past March, imposes fines of 5,000 rubles ($154) on individuals, 50,000 rubles ($1,537) on officials, and 250,000 to 500,000 rubles ($7,686–15,373) on organizations that violate the law.

The St. Petersburg Gay Pride march was initially authorized Tuesday to be held in the remote and mostly deserted Polyustrovsky Park at 2 p.m., Saturday, July 7. The site was suggested by City Hall as an alternative after it rejected all the more central routes and sites suggested by organizers.

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Petersburg Police Arrest Michael Jackson Fan for Holding “Illegal Rally”

Police Arrest Jackson Fan for Holding Rally
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
June 27, 2012

The police dispersed Michael Jackson fans near the U.S. consulate and arrested one for holding “an unsanctioned rally” in St. Petersburg on Monday.

The remaining 20 to 30 fans, who were carrying a tape recorder playing Jackson songs and a sign reading “We remember, we grieve,” were told to disperse.

The shrine of photos and flowers that they assembled outside the consulate was dismantled.

A report on local television channel 100TV shows a young man identified by his first name, Andrei, being told by a police officer that he has violated a local law by treading on the grass.

But after Andrei, wearing a Jackson-style white hat, was taken to a police precinct, he was charged with violating the rules on holding a public assembly.

“I don’t recall that people can be prosecuted for walking on the grass,” a police spokesman said Tuesday.

“If you trampled on the grass — especially if there were flowers planted there — that’s a different matter. [But the detention] was for organizing a rally; there were posters and sound-amplifying equipment.”

Fans who came to the site Monday denied that they were an organized group, BaltInfo reported.

Local fans have come to the U.S. consulate every year to pay homage to their idol since Jackson died on June 25, 2009.

According to amendments to the law “On Assemblies, Rallies, Demonstrations, Marches and Pickets” that came into force on June 9, Andrei faces a 10,000- to 30,000-ruble fine ($300 to $910) or 50 hours of community service.

The incident involving the Michael Jackson fans was the latest in a series of recent non-political arrests and dispersals of people who took to the streets of St. Petersburg for various reasons.

On June 10, about ten young people were detained and charged with violating the rules of holding a public assembly for participating in a pillow-fighting flash mob on the Field of Mars.

This month also saw several young people arrested near the Mariinsky Palace, the seat of the Legislative Assembly on St. Isaac’s Square, for attempting to draw on the asphalt with colored chalk.

Some media have attributed the recent unwarranted arrests and dispersals to the new law. It was passed in the aftermath of the May 6 March of Millions in Moscow, which ended in violent clashes after the police blocked the path of participants of the authorized demonstration and then broke up the rally altogether.

But non-political arrests had been seen in the city many times before the law introducing stiff fines was adopted early this month.

One of the most notorious episodes was the April 2010 bubble-blowing flash mob near Gorkovskaya metro station, which was first attacked by extreme nationalists, who threw a flare at and beat several participants, having mistaken them for gay rights protesters.

The police then dispersed participants, who were mostly teenagers, arresting about 30. They ended up in police precincts and were released after about five hours and charged with walking on the grass.

Some attribute the tightening of the authorities’ reaction to any unsanctioned outdoor events to the Kremlin’s fear of events such as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004-2005, when massive protests against electoral fraud led to new presidential elections and the loss of the candidate — Viktor Yanukovych — in whose favor the first election results had been rigged.

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