Opposition Groups Plan Rallies 1 Year After Fraud
The March of Freedom is expected to draw protesters ranging from liberals to nationalists.
Published: December 5, 2012 (Issue # 1738)
The St. Petersburg opposition has applied to City Hall for approval to hold a rally on Saturday, Dec. 15 to mark the anniversary of the December 2011 protests, when tens of thousands took to the streets to protest fraud and violations recorded during the Dec. 4 State Duma elections.
Called the March of Freedom, the rally is set to coincide with the Moscow march of the same name initiated by the Opposition Coordination Council elected in October.
In the application submitted to City Hall on Nov. 30, the organizers proposed two possible routes for the march: From Oktyabrsky Concert Hall on Ligovsky Prospekt to Arts Square or from Ulitsa Belinskogo to Konyushennaya Ploshchad.
In an attempt to reconcile conflicting political and social groups, the organizers have banned participants from carrying flags of political organizations and civic associations. Only the use of Russian national flags and St. Petersburg flags will be allowed. No stationary rally with speeches at the end of the march is planned, for the same reason.
Earlier last month, a group of activists and concerned citizens urged local political and civic groups to overcome their “eternal squabbles” and “ideological and personal preferences” and hold a unified mass event against the current political situation in Russian.
“We believe that a single protest rally will help to restore citizens’ trust in political and civic activists, and force the authorities to reckon with the opinion of millions,” they said in a statement.
The March of Freedom is expected to draw a broad range of protesters, from liberals to moderate nationalists.
In September, a local rally called March of Millions splintered into four different rallies held by different groups who did not want to protest alongside each other, while the main March of Millions event in Moscow was held on the same day as a single protest, despite differences.
Andrei Pivovarov, a member of the opposition’s Coordination Council and one of the March of Freedom organizers, said Tuesday that, unlike in Moscow, the St. Petersburg opposition remains split.
“In Moscow, they have the Coordination Council operating, and there have been no schismatics for a long time,” Pivovarov said. He referred to former Soviet dissident Valeria Novodvorskaya, who held a separate, “anti-fascist” rally that drew several hundred people on Prospekt Sakharova in Moscow in February, while the main anti-electoral fraud march held on that day drew tens of thousands.
According to Pivovarov, City Hall rejected the March of Freedom application late on Monday. He said that negotiations with the local authorities would be resumed on Friday.
Despite concessions, a recently formed coalition called Democratic St. Petersburg, which features the Yabloko Democratic Party, Russian Republican Party/People’s Freedom Party (RPR-PARNAS), Christian Democrats, Soldiers’ Mothers, Memorial and a number of LGBT rights groups, said it would hold a different march on Sunday, Dec. 9.
Although the rally is called “For Freedom Yours and Ours,” Democratic St. Petersburg said this week that it would be part of the national March of Freedom, despite the fact that it is being held a week ahead of the national protest. Democratic St. Petersburg will march from Gorkovskaya metro station on the Petrograd Side at 4 p.m. Sunday to the Field of Mars to have a brief stationary rally there. City Hall authorized the march Tuesday, changing the suggested route (six different routes were suggested by the organizers) and the time. “Because of the authorities’ unwillingness to compromise, [the stationary rally] will be held in twilight,” Democratic St. Petersburg said in a statement.
Nikolai Rybakov, a member of the Yabloko party and one of the For Freedom Yours and Ours march’s organizers, said that Democratic St. Petersburg had taken a decision to hold a march this week several months ago.
“When Democratic St. Petersburg formed, its main goal was holding events by democratic organizations and non-acceptance of joint rallies with the nationalists,” Rybakov said Tuesday.
“That’s very important, because we are concerned not only with the down-with-Putin issue, but also with the what-will-be-next issue. I think ‘What will be next?’ is the key question. It’s absolutely clear that Putin will stop being the president at some point, and we have different views of what will come after. At our rallies we should stand up for our view of what Russia will be like.”