Opposition lawmakers in Moscow failed on Thursday to legalize a resilient opposition camp in the city’s center that faces pressure from city authorities and law enforcement.
Members of the district council in the Presnensky District proposed to sanction the opposition to hold a festival dubbed Summer of Freedom on Tverskoi Boulevard between May 17 and September 1.
But the vote fell through on Thursday after heated discussion due to lack of a quorum.
Three opposition lawmakers were prevented from attending the vote by the authorities on various pretexts, Radio Liberty reported former district head Alexander Krasnov as saying.
The camp was established on Chistoprudny Boulevard on May 9 after two days of police cracking down on opposition gatherings in downtown Moscow in the wake of President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration.
On Tuesday, the authorities expelled the camp – which attracted between several dozens and several thousand protesters, depending on the time of the day – citing complaints from seven residents in the neighborhood.
However, the protesters took the camp to Kudrinskaya Square, where they managed to secure a foothold despite a police crackdown that resulted in some 20 arrests on late Wednesday.
Activists accused police of stealing their food and moneybox with some 200,000 rubles ($6,400). Police denied theft allegations and said the protesters, who established an improvised buffet, did not have the right to distribute food in the streets.
Mass anti-Putin protests have been ongoing in Moscow since December. Tensions flared at a May 6 rally, which saw protesters clash with police, who briefly detained 650 people, according to rights activists’ figures.
The latest protest, a mass promenade across city boulevards last Sunday organized by several prominent writers and poets, attracted between 2,000 according to police reports and 20,000 according to the organizers’ estimates. Police did not intervene with the event despite it being unsanctioned.
Moscow’s artists and musicians are planning their own unsanctioned mass walks in the coming days, starting Saturday. The Prosecutor General’s Office said on Thursday such walks could lead to crime and slapped one of the organizers, curator Yury Samodurov, with a warning.