Tensions Mount Over Mass Protest
Published: December 12, 2008 (Issue # 1433)
City Hall on Thursday downgraded a major oppositional protest event scheduled for Sunday to a stationary meeting at the Chernyshevsky Gardens, far from the city center, organizers said after meeting with officials. The protest is the latest in a series of actions that are known as Dissenters’ Marches,
Last week, City Hall rejected three routes suggested for the march by the rally organizers, without offering an alternative as they are legally required to do, prompting the applicants to file a lawsuit against the local government on Monday.
Although they have agreed to a stationary meeting at the Chernyshevsky Gardens, the majority of organizers and participants will gather at a previously announced starting point near Gostiny Dvor Metro at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Olga Kurnosova, the local leader of Garry Kasparov’s United Civil Front (OGF), said by phone on Thursday.
“[Participants will gather] at Gostiny Dvor and move along sidewalks, in an organized way, toward the Chernyshevsky Gardens,” Kurnosova said. The approximate distance between the two points is 3 kilometers. The gardens will be open to protesters from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Kurnosova said.
Dissenters’ Marches were introduced as the main form of mass protest in 2006 by the Other Russia, a pro-democracy coalition formed by OGF and Eduard Limonov’s banned National Bolshevik Party. Held several times a year, the marches, which have attracted up to 6,000 protesters at a single event, were frequently dispersed by the OMON special forces police, with many arrests and police beatings reported.
Sunday’s march is targeted against changes to the Russian Constitution that will prolong the presidential and State Duma terms from four years to six and five years respectively. The measures were proposed by President Dmitry Medvedev last month and are currently being approved by regional parliaments. The way the Kremlin is dealing with the economic crisis will also come in for criticism according to flyers published by the organizers.
“Change Those in Power, and Not the Constitution” and “Authorities, Take Responsibility for the Crisis,” stickers advertising the rally state.
Oppositionists said City Hall had no right by Russian law to change the form of the rally from a march to a stationary meeting, but agreed to the offer to avoid clashes with the police.
“Unlike the executive authority and law enforcers, first and foremost for us is the safety of civilians, while for them it’s orders from Moscow,” Kurnosova said.Pages: