Many of the owners of shops and restaurants along the broad plaza in downtown Moscow that is the site for Saturday’s opposition demonstration are beefing up security ahead of the three-hour event.
The “For Fair Elections” movement has received a permit for a rally by up to 50,000 people on the Novy Arbat, a kilometer-long urban strip nearly 100 meters wide lined end-to-end with outsized stores, bars and restaurants.
The demonstration, to be held from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., will be confined to the south side of the street, which hosts a broad pedestrian plaza.
“Anything is possible. Peaceable people and those that aren’t,” Lyudmila Sergazina, the director of the Novoarbatsky delicatessen, told the press. “We have been advised to increase the number of floorwalkers, make ourselves secure and be on site in person. I think it’s justified,” she said.
One popular café may decide to close its doors for the duration of the protest.
“We’re not ecstatic about the demonstration. All the more so since it will be right outside our café,” said Olga Zakharenko, who runs the Shokoladnitsa on Novy Arbat. “Judging by what happened on Pushkinskaya Square, it’s entirely possible that we will be closed,” she said, referring to the latest opposition protest on a central Moscow square, at which 250 demonstrators were detained, including two leading opposition activists, blogger Alexei Navalny and Left Front coordinator Sergei Udaltsov.
Police estimated there were about 14,000 opposition protesters at the demonstration on Pushkinskaya Square on Monday, March 5, the day after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won the presidential election with nearly 64% of the vote.
The demonstration will definitely cost the café money, Zakharenko said, since it’s usually full of tourists who are sure to stay away during the protest.
“I expect we will lose money,” she said.