Ponomarev Calls on New Mayor to Curb Police Violence Against Demonstrators

Moscow's Tverskaya Square. Source: Kasparov.ruWith the ousting of a mayor who showed little mercy to oppositionists trying to hold protests in his city, human rights advocates are putting pressure on Moscow’s interim mayor to break tradition and put a stop to the violent police crackdowns that local activists have become so familiar with over the past eighteen years.

Lev Ponomarev, head of the organization For Human Rights, told Ekho Moskvy radio that a request had been sent to Interim Mayor Vladimir Resin to sanction the “Day of Anger,” part of a regular series of rallies under that name. The demonstrations are aimed at allowing Russian citizens to voice their collective grievances against corrupt government officials, civil rights abuses, unconstitutional policies, and other political and societal problems. The rallies are routinely banned and violently broken up by police.

While it is completely routine for the Russian authorities to ban opposition protests on weak or nonexistent pretexts, former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov was known for going to the extreme and banning rallies just so he didn’t have to see them. As Ponomarev told Ekho Moskvy, it would not be right for Resin “to continue the tradition that was formed under Yury Luzhkov, in which any rally on Tverskaya Square across from his office was automatically banned.”

“There were many violations of the rights of Muscovites, illegal actions, corruption” under Luzhkov, the rights advocate went on. “One of these violations was the regular prohibition of large demonstrations outside his window. There must be changes. Resin, in temporarily fulfilling the mayor’s duties, should act according to the law.”

Organizers of the upcoming Day of Anger, scheduled for October 12 on Moscow’s Tverskaya Square, handed in an application for the event the day Luzhkov was fired. On September 30, they received notification that their application had been denied, on the basis that the rally would “bother Muscovites and guests of the city” and could possibly result in damage to a monument on the square. Oppositionists decried the move as unfounded, saying that the city was giving up the chance to improve the political climate in the capital.

Corresponding Day of Anger rallies are planned for October 12 in cities throughout Russia, including in St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Penza, Kirov, Voronezh, Ufa, Krasnoyarsk, Ivanovo, and many other cities. The last Day of Anger in Moscow was held without official sanction on September 12. Thirty out of the approximately 200 participants were detained by police.