Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Russian Freedom of Assembly Protest

Грани-ТВ: Триумфальная площадь, 31 января

The above is a Grani-TV report on demonstrations in support of Russians right to public assembly under article 31 of the Russian constitution. Over 100 people were arrested at Triumph Square in Moscow during the demonstration January 31st. Moscow News has more:

"Evgeniya Chaykovskaya

Moscow police detained more than 100 people on January 31st when it dispelled an opposition protest in defense of Article 31 of the Russian constitution.

Around 500 people took part in the demonstration at Triumfalnaya Square in central Moscow and 150 journalists followed the event. Most of the detained were released later in the evening. Among the detained were Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Yashin, leaders of the opposition movement Solidarnost (Solidarity), Eduard Limonov, leader of the banned National-Bolshevist party and Oleg Orlov, the head of Memorial rights group. All the detained will face administrative fines. The participants were shouting the slogans "Freedom!" and "Russia without Putin!"
Article 31 of the constitution states that "Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, hold rallies, meetings and demonstrations, marches and pickets." Opposition marks every 31st day of months which have the date with a rallies in Moscow to support the constitutional right.

Every time ahead of the planned rallies opposition groups apply for permission to hold them at Triumfalnaya Square on Moscow's Garden Ring. But their request are traditionally rejected by the Moscow city government. Authorities explain their decision saying a rally at Triumfalnaya square would hamper street traffic or cause other disturbances. This time they cited "Winter Games" festival that would take place on the square.

The authorities claim that they offered the opposition other places in central Moscow for their rally. Alexander Khokhlov, first deputy head of press-office at mayor's office said Bolotnaya Square, Taras Shevchenko Embankment, Chistoprudniy Boulevard and the square next to "1905 Street" metro station had been offered as replacements. However, the opposition had refused to change its plans.

Similar protests took place in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk and Vladivostok.

The next rally in defense of the Article 31 of the constitution is scheduled for March, 31st.

Another massive protest took place in Kaliningrad, the most Western Russian region on January, 30th. Up to 10,000 people gathered there to protest against rising transport taxes and utility tariffs. All major political parties and groups except for pro-Kremlin United Russia, attended the protest. Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Yashin, leaders of Solidarnost flew from Moscow to take part in the rally, the organizers described as the biggest in Russia in 20 years.

The participants demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Kaliningrad Governor Georgy Boos and all the Kalinigrad government.

Nemtsov took the stage. According to the business daily Kommersant Boris Nemtsov said that "federal and regional authorities made the people so angry, that the incredible happened. The opposition united and I think that it is only a forewarning of the events that will, apparently, take place all over Russia."

The transport tax tariffs rose by 25% in Kaliningrad in Autumn 2009. Ria Novosti writes that there are around 350,000 vehicles for the million people in Kaliningrad, which is a very high number by Russian standards."

Before Americans get too smug about this they should try putting together a protest before a national political convention or global economic meeting and see what happens.

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