More Than 60 Detained at Local Strategy 31 Rally
Published: November 2, 2011 (Issue # 1681)
ALEXANDER BELENKY / FOR SPT
A woman being detained by OMON riot police during the Strategy 31 rally outside Gostiny Dvor on Monday evening.
The authorities shut down yet another Strategy 31 rally in defense of the right of assembly in central St. Petersburg on Monday, arresting dozens, including a young Swedish woman who came to support residents.
The opposition said a number of arrested activists were beaten by the police, who made arrests without stating their name and rank or the grounds for arrest as required by law, and often acted brutally.
In a press release, the Yabloko Democratic Party said that its four Legislative Assembly candidates were arrested during the rally, while one of them, Denis Vasilyev, was beaten in a police bus.
According to Vasilyev, he asked the policeman who arrested him to identify himself. Instead, Vasilyev was handcuffed and beaten. He added that an employee of a private security firm helped to handcuff him, and that later that same person was presented by the police as a witness to the activists’ alleged crimes.
Yabloko’s Alexander Shurshev said Tuesday that by law, Legislative Assembly candidates may only be charged with administrative violations with permission from a prosecutor.
The Strategy 31 organizers said that the beaten activists also included The Other Russia’s Maria Krylova and Alexander Rastorguyev, leader of the TIGR movement of car-owners and a Leningrad Oblast Legislative Assembly candidate.
Rastorguyev was arrested while trying to help the United Civil Front’s local leader Olga Kurnosova, whose arms were being twisted by several policemen who were trying to drag her into a bus where detainees were being held.
According to Andrei Dmitriyev of The Other Russia opposition party, more than 500 took part in Monday’s rally, more than 60 of whom were detained. Most of them — about 50 people — were held at five police precincts in different parts of the city overnight, he said, to be taken to court Tuesday.
The people shouted “Freedom,” “No to the Police State,” “No Putin for Russia” and “No to Elections Without a Choice.”
Large-scale police presence was deployed in the city center. Arrests were mostly made by the OMON special task force police, wearing helmets and armored vests, who were assisted by the regular police, public order volunteers and private security firms.
The Swedish citizen, whose name was not released, was held at a police precinct overnight and taken to court Tuesday. She was arrested for holding a sheet of paper with the words “Sweden Supports the Right of Russian Citizens to the Freedom of Assembly” written on it.
A man wearing a large pigeon costume, who was first seen at a Strategy 31 demo back in January and continued to attend regularly without being arrested, was detained this time. According to Dmitriyev, he was recognized by the detained protesters as an activist with the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi, whose apparent goal was to distract the attention of people present and make the rally appear “unserious.”
The police prevented protesters from marching to the Legislative Assembly by blocking them near Dumskaya Ulitsa and making arrests, but a dozen later made it to St. Isaac’s Square, where the Legislative Assembly is located.
The police arrested four young women belonging to The Other Russia on the square, accusing them of “crossing the street in the wrong place.” Although such an alleged violation does not usually lead to detention and is punished by a fine on the spot, the activists were forcefully put into police vans and driven to a police precinct.
Two of them, Anastasia Kurt-Adzhiyeva and Galina Khrenova, were still in Police Precinct No. 2 on Tuesday.
Most of those detained were charged with participating in an unsanctioned rally and failure to follow a police officer’s orders, violations punishable with anything from a 500-ruble (about $16) fine to 15 days in prison.
Strategy 31, the nonpartisan campaign of peaceful rallies in defense of the right to assembly guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian constitution, was launched by author and The Other Russia leader Eduard Limonov in Moscow in 2009. Activists and concerned citizens come to protest on the last day of months that have 31 days.