Moscow March against the Hangmen

posted 16 Jun 2013, 07:31 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Jun 2013, 07:47 ]
13 June 2013 

Vera Vasilieva

On 12 June 2013, Russia Day, in Moscow the opposition marched along a route from Kaluzhskaya Square to Yakimanka and thence to Bolotnaya Square. The demonstration was called "March against the Hangmen" to express support for those charged with alleged rioting on 6 May 2012 and for other political prisoners. 

Half an hour before the march began, at 12:30, there were already a great many people gathered at Kaluzhskaya Square. As people passed through the metal detectors, next to which the police were on duty inspecting every bag, they took out their banners and placards. Giant portraits of the “Bolotnaya prisoners”, numerous slogans sharply criticizing Vladimir Putin, banners calling for the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, photographs of the ex-Yukos employee Aleksei Pichugin and of Taisiya Osipova. There were also many flags – of the Republican Party of Russia/People’s Freedom Party, the Party of 5 December, Yabloko, Solidarity, and others.

View photos of the march by Vera Vasilieva HERE

A gigantic banner attracted special attention that was made up of three balloons of the colours of the Russian national flag with the words ‘Freedom’, ‘Dignity’ and ‘Resistance’, to which were attached pieces of paper with statements of how the demonstrators wanted Russia to be: ‘…with a civil society’, ‘…with roads and without fools’, ‘…where the authorities is obliged to answer to the people’, ‘… without political prisoners’, ‘…where people with disabilities can live with dignity’, and so on. 

The demonstrators warmly welcomed Aleksei Navalny who had come from Kirov where he is on trial in the Kirovles case. The opposition leader was accompanied by this wife. ‘Navalny for mayor!’ people shouted.

In addition, in the first row of the march were the politicians Vladimir Ryzhkov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Ilya Yashin, Gennady and Dmitry Gudkov. The relatives of those charged in the Bolotnaya case were also at the demonstration, as well as the human rights defenders Arseny Roginsky, Lev Ponomarev and Elena Ryabinina.

At exactly 13:00 the march began. The marchers chanted: "Russia without Putin!", "Down with rule by the secret police!" At the front of the march was carried a banner with one of the main slogans of the day, borrowed from the dissidents of Soviet times: "For your and our freedom!"

At the very start of the demonstration there were a number of excesses. A group of nationalists headed by Nikolai Bondarik set off a flare and began shouting out their own slogans. They were detained by the police.

Activists from Left Front were also taken to nearby police stations after they held up the flags of their movement. As it subsequently became clear, they had been detained on the grounds that the activity of Left Front has been suspended by a court decision, and for that reason the symbols of the movement cannot be used.

A number of people who were dressed as vegetables were also not allowed to take part in the Marh against the Hangmen. These individuals were well known to the public for their picketing of Moscow City Court where the Bolotnaya case is being heard. There the ‘vegetables’ had called for the accused to be ‘planted’ in jail.

When the march had reached the turning to Bolotnaya Square, the marchers could see a sight that gave many the feeling of déjà vu. The route towards the Kremlin was blocked off by metal fencing, ranks of riot police, soldiers, and heavy equipment – just as it had been on 6 May last year.

But this time everything passed off peacefully, and no one tried to stop the demonstrators moving onto the square.

There, for the protestors to view, stood the placards with the portaits of the ‘hangmen’ – those from the law enforcement agencies who, according to the information of the opposition, have fabricated the Bolotnaya case.

According to the police, about 6,000 people took part in the march. According to journalists and the demonstrators themselves, there were at least twice as many.