Anniversary March Of Freedom Gets Go-Ahead
Published: December 12, 2012 (Issue # 1739)
City Hall on Monday authorized the March of Freedom, set to mark Saturday’s anniversary of last year’s protests against widespread fraud in the State Duma parliamentary elections, but rejected every route that the organizers proposed.
Natalya Gryaznevich, one of the organizers, said Tuesday that the routes in the busier part of the center used by thousands of protesters for the demos held earlier this year were rejected, and that they had had to agree to a route offered by City Hall as an alternative.
The march, which is set to coincide with the planned March of Freedom in Moscow and protests in a number of other cities, will start at Gorkovskaya metro station at 2 p.m. Saturday and end on the Field of Mars.
During Monday’s negotiations at City Hall, Nikolai Strumentov of City Hall’s committee for law, order and security suggested holding a rally in the remote Polyustrovo Park or on the causeway leading across the Gulf of Finland to the island of Kronstadt, a proposal that the organizers described as “a mockery” in a news release.
“We said ‘thanks but no thanks,’ and chose the one from Gorkovskaya metro station as the most suitable,” Gryaznevich said.
In their first application, submitted to City Hall on Dec. 2, the organizers suggested two routes starting from Oktyabrsky Concert Hall on Ligovsky Prospekt. After City Hall had rejected them, two alternative routes, one also from Oktyabrsky and another from Vladimirskaya Ploshchad, were suggested on Dec. 10, but were also declined.
“The reasoning behind it was hilarious,” Gryaznevich said.
“He [Strumentov] asked, ‘Have you been there? It’s all icicles and snowdrifts!’ That’s interesting, because it’s their [City Hall’s] job to keep the city clear of snow and ice, but nevertheless that was the reason they gave for the rejection.”
Gryaznevich, who belongs to the Citizen’s Responsibility movement formed in the wake of the first election protests in January 2012, said the organizers act as individuals rather than representatives of any political groups.
Only national and city flags will be allowed at the march, so as not to scare off concerned citizens who support the protesters’ demands but might not share the political views of one or another political organization. No stationary rally with speakers will be held.
“When people see flags belonging to organizations they do not support, it repels them at once,” Gryaznevich said.
“We decided to concentrate on the fact that this is a common protest, needed by everyone, and put political nuances aside. It doesn’t matter if people are nationalists or liberals.”
Last year’s protests, which drew over 100,000 in Moscow and over 10,000 in St. Petersburg, making them ten times larger than most protests since Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency in 2000, called for the annulment of the election results and the release of political prisoners, among other things.
None of these demands have been fulfilled by the Kremlin, and the arrests of Pussy Riot members and the May 6 protesters in Moscow have only added to the number of political prisoners in the country.