Protest Figures Detained, Activists Find New Base
Published: May 30, 2012 (Issue # 1710)
The police arrested local opposition leaders Olga Kurnosova and Nikolai Bondarik as they distributed white balloons for the second Test Walk that started on St. Isaac’s Square amid City Day celebrations Sunday.
The walk, whose aim was to check whether residents can walk around freely with white balloons and white ribbons — which represent the campaign for honest elections and anti-Putin protests — went ahead without Kurnosova and Bondarik, who were taken to two different police precincts and charged with jaywalking.
They were fined and released about three hours later, Kurnosova said.
Between two and three hundred took part, marching on Nevsky Prospekt toward Ploshchad Iskusstv, where anti-Putin protesters have been gathering after being evicted from two previous locations.
However, when one protester started reading poetry aloud, a policeman with a megaphone began warning that the event was not sanctioned and that participants would be detained.
On Sunday morning, six opposition campers were detained while they were sitting on benches on Ploshchad Iskusstv near the Alexander Pushkin monument and charged with violating St. Petersburg’s environmental law. They were released two and a half hours later, and also face fines.
After two weeks of camping in the gardens in front of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Occupy St. Isaac’s protesters were told to move out when maintenance work was suddenly announced on May 21 and the garden was enclosed by a yellow metal fence.
According to the city authorities, the garden’s paths were to undergo maintenance work in preparation for City Day on Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon, the garden was still closed and no work was being carried out. There were two small heaps of sand and gravel and one uniformed maintenance worker sitting in the grass in the otherwise deserted garden.
To avoid conflict with the police, the protesters moved to the nearby Alexandrovsky gardens in front of the Admiralty, where they created a toy rally by placing stuffed toys next to miniature posters with baby-talk slogans such as “Putin is a baddie” or “Putin, I don’t want to play with you.”
The installation was used by the police as grounds for accusing the protesters of holding an unauthorized rally and driving them out of the garden. Since Saturday, the protesters have made the garden on Ploshchad Iskusstv their new base.