Opposition Prepares for May Day Celebrations
Published: April 16, 2014 (Issue # 1806)
As local democrats argued over their slogans ahead of the upcoming May Day march, anti-war protests continued on Sunday with an unauthorized gathering near Kazan Cathedral and a series of one-man protests on Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg’s main street.
About 200 people gathered at Kazan Cathedral on Sunday to protest against censorship, the shuttering of independent media outlets and anti-Ukrainian propaganda by state-controlled media. Originally, a March of Truth was due to be held on that day but City Hall refused to authorize the rally and suggested that it be moved to the remote Polyustrovsky Park in the north of the city.
“They always find some reasons to deny the rallies, I didn’t even look into the details,” organizer Natalya Tsymbalova, one of the leaders of the Democratic St. Petersburg coalition, told The St. Petersburg Times on Monday.
“They cite repair work or other events [taking place at the same place at the same time]; it’s a game we know all too well. Instead, they offered Polyushrovsky Park, which doesn’t suit us at all because it’s far from the center, from the metro and far from other people. We didn’t even consider it because to agree to such an option means not to respect oneself.”
The rally was due to be held on the same date as the March of Truth in Moscow but authorities there refused to authorize the event as a march, permitting only a stationary rally instead. Several thousand people were reported to have attended the rally in Moscow.
At the rally in St. Petersburg, some people held placards reading “Hands off of independent media,” “Truth. Nothing but the truth.” and “Don’t forget to switch off the television,” but many made direct reference to Ukraine.
“Putin’s media, stop lying about Ukraine,” read a placard signed Democratic St. Petersburg and held by coalition activist Vsevolod Nelayev. “Down with the power of the KGB. Enough lying. Hands off of Ukraine,” read another.
“The last wave of clampdowns on freedom of speech and attacks against independent media, such as those against the Grani.ru website and Dozhd television, was definitely connected with Ukraine,” Tsymbalova said.
“The wave of propaganda that we see now was also connected to Ukraine and we should speak out about it, even if it might prove unpopular. We have no fear of unpopular subjects. It’s more important to us than gaining electoral advantages.”
Several young men who tried to provoke the protesters by speaking in support by Russian President Vladimir Putin and against Ukraine were seen at the rally, but no clashes were reported. The police did not make any arrests, although some protesters received warnings and some had their names and passport details taken down by officers.
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