Sun Shines, Police Lock Down Moscow March

Garry Kasparov speaking at the June 11 rally in MoscowNearly 2000 people came out to the Other Russia rally in Pushkin Square in Moscow today. They listened to human rights and political leaders from across the broad ideological spectrum of the Other Russia pro-democracy coalition. They included Alexei Navalny of Yabloko, Garry Kasparov of the United Civil Front, Eduard Limonov of the now-banned National Bolsheviks, and Sergei Udaltsov of the Vanguard of Red Youth. En route to the rally Udaltsov was picked up by police in the subway and taken to the police station. At the rally he said that “the Other Russia won today because in the police station the officials said they supported us and released me!” (Perhaps this is the reason the regime is careful to bring in thousands of more hardened troops from the regions.)

Kasparov (right) pointed skyward and said, “This is the ninth time we have marched and always under a shining sun. Even nature wants us to win!” Navalny said, “We are with you, whatever our differences, we must be united. How can it be that Russian citizens are treated like wild animals and aren’t allowed to travel freely to another city to participate in an event?” Eduard Limonov: “The authorities have not been able to intimidate us out of existence. We continue to hold up our heads proudly and to speak openly in dissent.” Oleg Kozlovsky: “Each of us alone could not achieve anything, but together we can. This is our country!” Yuri Chervinchuk referred to Putin’s regime as “Pinochetism” and that it would collapse as do all dictatorships.

A massive police presence locked down the square and prevented anyone from attempting to begin the march organizers had hoped for, despite not receiving approval from the city authorities. (“Only” 1000 were seen in the square, but the side streets all around the plaza were full of troops ready for action if we attempted to leave.) They also prevented anyone from joining the rally after the event had begun. According to the law, approval for a march is not required, only notification, but they declared our planned march illegal regardless. According to official sources, there were 720 police officers, not counting the many soldiers brought in. We counted at least 20 trucks belonging to the National Guard of North Ossetia as well as buses from six or seven regions.

There was notable participation of the local Union of Right Forces (SPS) youth activists. The SPS national leadership has preferred a quiet life of pseudo-opposition in Putin’s shadow, but their members and activists are increasingly frustrated by this stance. One SPS member handing out Other Russia fliers told our correspondent today that “we aren’t afraid of any reaction from the party. We support the Other Russia and there are more and more of us.”

A slow-moving truck with loudspeakers slowly circled the square blasting maniacal laughter to disrupt the rally’s speakers. The police did nothing about this harassment. We wonder how long such a thing would be allowed to continue at a rally by a Kremlin-supported group.

More updates and statements to follow.