Strategy 31 Organizers Turn Down Gov’t Proposal

Rally on Triumfalnaya square, May 31, 2010. Source: Kasparov.ruOrganizers of the Strategy 31 opposition rallies have turned down a government proposal to settle an ongoing dispute between the Moscow city authorities and the protesters, who continue to insist on their constitutional right to protest where they choose.

In a column published today on, Strategy 31 co-organizer Eduard Limonov said that two people who said that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev had charged them with “settling the conflict on Triumfalnaya” met with him and co-organizers Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Konstantin Kosyakin the day after police detained about 170 activists at their May 31 event. The rally, held on Moscow’s central Triumfalnaya Square, had been dedicated to the defense of the constitutional right to free assembly and had not been sanctioned by city authorities.

At the meeting, said Limonov, the two government representatives proposed the following plan: Strategy 31 organizers would be given permission to rally on nearby Pushkin Square on July 31, and then on Triumfalnaya Square on August 31. Their following rally could then be held on Pushkin Square, and in this manner the activists would be allowed to alternate back and forth between the two locations.

The negotiators added that such an arrangement would allow the government “to save face,” Limonov said.

In his turn, Limonov proposed his own alternative: that the Russian Supreme Court be allowed to rule whether or not it is illegal for the opposition to hold Strategy 31 rallies on Triumfalnaya Square. Such a proposal failed to suit the government representatives, who Limonov said responded that if that happened, “the public will say that the government broke under the pressure of Limonov, and that is inadmissible.”

The organizers agreed several days later not to accept the government proposal, Limonov went on, and both sides agreed to take a “time out” until later in June to continue negotiations.

The Strategy 31 rallies have been continually banned by Moscow city authorities under a number of pretexts since their inception in May 2009. While the city government, as is required by federal law, continually proposes alternative locations for the opposition to hold its events, the activists maintain that these locations would render them virtually invisible to the public at large. This, they say, would make their event, which is meant to inform citizens of their constitutional right to free assembly and assert that right themselves, pointless.

While government loyalists and other critics say that the oppositionists should be content to rally at the alternative locations proposed by the city and accuse them of intentionally provoking the authorities by holding rallies that they know will not be sanctioned, Strategy 31 organizers insist that the government has no right to limit their place of protest, and that legislation allowing the government to deny sanction to a rally violates the constitution. Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said earlier this month that the 170 detentions by police at the May 31 event were “illegal” and that the idea of a “sanctioned action” does not actually exist in Russian law. Instead, according to the constitution, organizers are only required to notify the local government if they plan to hold a large demonstration, he said.