Showing posts with label International: Demonstration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International: Demonstration. Show all posts

March 27, 2017

Demonstrations in Russia Were Because the Absurdity of Corruption

 Dmitry Medvedev, So Rich He Buys a heated house
for ducks in the middle of his man-made pond and Mansion.
All his money like Putin is been made since He and Putin came to power

Sunday in Moscow was a bright spring day, chilly but clear, and by the time I made my way to Tverskaya Street, Moscow’s main thoroughfare, the sidewalks were full of people strolling up, toward Pushkin Square, and down, toward Red Square and the red-brick towers of the Kremlin. They had come out for a march led by Alexey Navalny, Russia’s savviest and most popular opposition politician, who had declared a nationwide day of anti-corruption action. The protest was one of mere presence, rather than any specific activity: a few people held signs, and every now and then a chant broke out, but the main political statement of the day was simply showing up.

The nominal cause for the march, and for similar gatherings in dozens of cities across the country, was alleged corruption that Navalny and his researchers had unearthed about Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s largely enfeebled Prime Minister. Earlier this month, Navalny had published a report detailing various far-flung properties, luxury yachts, and other high-end goods that Medvedev has allegedly acquired over the years, in part funded by contributions that Russian oligarchs made to fake charity foundations. But Sunday’s demonstrations were also about a creeping mood of public dissatisfaction and fatigue, a sense that, after seventeen years, Vladimir Putin’s political system was running out of arguments to justify its continued monopoly hold on power. Official corruption proved to be a more compelling rallying cry than civil rights or voting irregularities: less about abstract political freedoms and more about the insult of learning that your country’s Prime Minister had acquired a vineyard in Tuscany while disposable incomes dropped an average of twelve per cent since 2014.

The Moscow mayor’s office had not authorized the march route—it had instead offered organizers the use of a park outside the city center—and had cautioned that it could not “bear responsibility for any possible negative consequences” of the unsanctioned demonstration. The warning didn’t seem to keep people away. On Tverskaya, it was impossible to judge the size of the crowd, but it was easily several thousand. The official response seemed chaotic and inconsistent. Most people walked unimpeded up and down the street for hours. But Navalny himself was grabbed and thrown into a police van a few minutes after he arrived, with a pair of Nike sneakers hanging from his neck—a riff on one of the charges that he had levelled against Medvedev, who he said used a front company led by a loyal crony to buy himself running shoes.

Near the Central Telegraph building, where I stood, the flow of people passed unbothered, but by Pushkin Square riot police, wearing black body armor and helmets, arrested dozens of people, clubbing and beating them before dragging them away. By the end of the day, as many as a thousand people in Moscow had been detained, far more than in 2011 and 2012, the last time the capital saw demonstrations of this size. A reporter from the Guardian was caught up in the arrests; he was taken to a police station and charged with “holding an unsanctioned rally.”

I was struck by how many young people had joined the protest march. During the previous wave of large-scale demonstrations in Moscow, the crowds were largely drawn from the capital’s middle class—educated, professional people in their twenties, thirties, and forties. On Sunday, the presence of high schoolers and college students was immediately noticeable. “Never before have schoolchildren and students participated on such a massive scale in opposition protests,” Meduza, an independent news site that is home to some of Russia’s best journalism, declared. “Teen-agers easily experience feelings of envy, unease, of being trivialized—and they go out and they try to do something,” a seventeen-year-old, named Konstantin, told the site, explaining why he joined the demonstration.

In explaining Putin’s consistently high approval ratings, many analysts and journalists point to the fact that more than eighty per cent of Russians receive their news from state-television broadcasts. Younger Russians, though, are less likely to pay attention to state-controlled TV, and it seems that the Kremlin has less certain tools for reaching this demographic, let alone shaping its political attitudes. Even LifeNews, a usually servile, pro-Kremlin tabloid site, has admitted this new reality. In an article published on Monday, called “Farewell, Television,” a Life columnist acknowledged that “television, by focussing on the adult, even elderly, part of the population, completely missed the active and young audience.” Sunday’s protests, in the columnist’s view, represented an “extremely disturbing and serious warning sign” for Kremlin officials. “Television has failed, and its inefficiency as a mass ‘agitator and organizer’ will only intensify.”

Russia’s young people can truly be called “Putin’s” generation: those under twenty-five have no significant memories of any other Russian leader. Yet, as was the case during perestroika, in the nineteen-eighties, the authorities appear to have lost a certain sway over the country’s youth, and no longer speak their language. Two weeks ago, a remarkable video of a meeting between a principal and high-school students in Bryansk, a provincial city some two hundred miles from Moscow, surfaced online, and was widely shared. The students had been hauled in for a lecture after one of them had urged his classmates to attend the local version of Navalny’s anti-corruption protest.

The principal’s tone is hectoring and frustrated. “What Navalny is doing is a pure provocation. Do you get it? You still don’t understand this,” she tells the students. They push back against her claims. One says, “We basically took it,” referring to Crimea. Another tells her about evidence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine: “There are videos going around—you have no idea.” The argument goes in circles, with the principal trying to scare the students with talk of civil war and unrest, and the students answering her with talk of “justice,” or what one describes as “when the authorities care about their people, and not just about themselves; when they care about ordinary citizens, and not about their millions of dollars.” Losing her patience, the principal asks whether Putin and Medvedev have made life worse. No, a student answers, “but they’ve stayed too long.” Neither side convinces the other, but it is the students who sound more confident and clearheaded in their arguments; the principal’s voice is marked by a note of disorientation, the frustration of falling behind the times and no longer enjoying the easy authority she once had.

For the Kremlin, the geographic diversity of Sunday’s protests was just as unsettling as their demographics. Gatherings of various sizes were held in nearly a hundred Russian cities, including places where demonstrations hadn’t occurred five years ago, during the previous wave of anti-Kremlin protests. A couple of hundred people came out in Nizhny Tagil, an industrial stronghold in the Ural Mountains where, in 2011, factory workers had volunteered to travel to Moscow and, if necessary, use force against anti-Putin protesters. More than a hundred and fifty people were detained in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, a republic in the North Caucasus where Putin got more than ninety per cent of the vote in 2012. It was clear that the Kremlin hadn’t anticipated anti-government activity in such regions, and that it had failed to give clear instructions to local authorities. As a result, in some places, the protests went on unmolested; in others, they were broken up roughly, as in Omsk, where authorities had snowplows drive out the crowd in the city’s central square.

The demonstrations were also tied up with Navalny’s political ambitions. He has declared his intention to run for President next year, when Putin is up for reëlection, though Navalny faces a years-old fraud case, which, if the Kremlin decides to pursue it, could bar him from the ballot—the sort of legal gray zone in which the Kremlin likes to keep the country’s opposition. Still, Sunday’s demonstrations put the Kremlin somewhat on the defensive, or at least in search of a new public-facing message of the kind that gives authoritarian governments such as Putin’s a sense of legitimacy.

Each of Putin’s Presidential terms has been bolstered by a different narrative. His first term, which began in 2000, centered on restoring the authority of the state and bringing a basic sense of order and competency to the administration of government. His second term, from 2004 to 2008, was about the redistribution of the country’s windfall oil-and-gas profits, fuelling a consumer boom and effectively buying the population’s political disengagement. And since 2012, when he returned to the office of the President after a faux withdrawal from power as Prime Minister, Putin’s rule has become defined by Russia’s standoff with the West, played out in Ukraine and Syria, which is really about restoring Russia’s self-image as a great power and an influential player on the world stage.

With elections a year away, it’s unclear what argument or bargain Putin wants to make with the Russian people in his fourth, and presumably last, term. The patriotic boost that the annexation of Crimea provided is starting to fade. Russia’s military operation in Syria is an even less potent propaganda tool. Putin and his political advisers don’t have a coherent answer to the populist and non-ideological anti-corruption message offered by Navalny. That doesn’t necessarily mean Navalny represents an actual danger to them at the ballot box. In 2013, Navalny lost the Moscow mayoral election, attracting twenty-seven per cent of the vote—an impressive number given the numerous disadvantages he faced, but perhaps a sign of his electoral ceiling. A recent poll by the Levada Center showed that the number of Russians ready to vote for him for President—which stood at thirty-three per cent in 2011—is now around ten per cent. In the end, Putin’s near-total control over the country’s electoral commissions, local legislatures, and court system at all levels means that his continued rule is likely to remain unchallenged.

Navalny’s real talent is in revealing the system’s weaknesses and blind spots, and in making it look awkward and unsure of itself. Last week, when unidentified pro-Kremlin activists threw green medical dye on him during a campaign rally, Navalny managed to turn his stained face into a popular meme. Sunday’s demonstrations were a clear success, not least because the Kremlin was so unprepared for them. They have awakened a sense of possibility in Navalny’s campaign, if it is allowed to proceed. On Monday, a Moscow court sentenced Navalny to fifteen days in jail for disobeying police orders—ostensibly a window the Kremlin wants to use to reassess its strategy toward Navalny and figure out what to do next. But, even if he figures out how to deal with Navalny, Putin will still face a trickier dilemma: How much longer will the cocktail of inertia, stability, and fear of the unknown keep him generally popular? And, if that political tincture loses its potency, what will his next offer to the Russian people entail? He may be able to delay answering those questions for some time, but not forever.

By Joshua Yaffa a New Yorker contributor based in Moscow. He is also a New America fellow.

March 26, 2017

Anti-Corruption Protesters Gather in 99 Cities in Russia

The Russian police arrested hundreds of people in nationwide anti-corruption protests on Sunday, including the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in Moscow, where thousands gathered for the biggest demonstration in five years against President Vladimir V. Putin.

The protest in the capital took the form of a synchronized walk along a major shopping street to avoid a ban on unsanctioned stationary gatherings. It was one of 99 similar rallies in cities and towns across the country — from Vladivostok in the far east to Kaliningrad in the west — according to the organizer, Mr. Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation.

All but 17 of these, the foundation said, had been declared illegal by the authorities.

In Moscow, some protesters tried to block security vans with cars, and the authorities deployed the riot police and surveillance helicopters. But they mostly avoided the brutal measures used in neighboring Belarus on Saturday against protesters in the capital, Minsk, and other cities.

The police in Belarus beat and arrested hundreds of people who tried to gather for the latest in demonstrations against President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.

But while less heavy-handed than in Belarus, whose Soviet-style president is often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” the police crackdown in Moscow could still complicate efforts by President Trump to deliver on pledges to “get along” with Mr. Putin.

In a statement on Sunday that reflected widespread wariness of the Russian leader in Washington, Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said: “Putin’s thugocracy is on full display. The United States government cannot be silent about Russia’s crackdown on peaceful protesters. Free speech is what we’re all about and Americans expect our leaders to call out thugs who trample the basic human rights of speech, press, assembly and protest.”

Shortly after the senator’s statement, Mark Toner, the acting spokesman for the State Department in Washington, said the United States “strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia on Sunday” and called for their immediate release. “Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values,” he added.

The protests in Russia on Sunday — nominally against corruption but also a rare show of public defiance against Mr. Putin, who has found a fierce and enduring critic in Mr. Navalny — were the largest coordinated display of public dissatisfaction since anti-Kremlin demonstrations in 2011 and 2012, after an election that was tainted by fraud.
Demonstrators called for the resignation of the prime minister over corruption allegations. Credit Maxim Shipenkov/European Pressphoto Agency
Protesters tried to prevent a police van from taking Mr. Navalny away and chanted: “This is our city. This is our city.” Others shouted, “Russia without Putin,” and held up pieces of paper denouncing the Russian president and his allies as thieves.

In a Twitter post, Mr. Navalny urged his followers to continue with the demonstration after he was grabbed by police officers as he tried to join the crowds along Tverskaya Street in the center of Moscow.

“Guys, I’m O.K.,” he wrote in a message in Russian. “No need to fight to get me out. Walk along Tverskaya. Our topic of the day is the fight against corruption.”

The Moscow Police Department said on its website that “around 500” people had been arrested in the city for taking part in an “unapproved public event.” OVD-info, a group that monitors arrests, said the number of arrests in Moscow was at least 1,000.

Instead of waving big banners with antigovernment slogans as in previous protests, most of those who joined Sunday’s walk on Tverskaya Street displayed their feelings discreetly. Some waved Russian flags, cloaking their opposition in the same patriotism that Mr. Putin has used so successfully to boost his popularity.

Others carried easily hidden signs featuring pictures of ducks, a reference to a claim by Mr. Navalny that corrupt officials even build houses for their ducks. Among those arrested in Moscow were Russian and foreign journalists, the leader of a small opposition party, Nikolai Lyaskin — who said he was hit around the head by police officers and taken to a hospital — and a British student, Gregory Hill, 17.

Demoralized and divided since the post-2011 election protests, which fizzled amid a wave of arrests, Russia’s opposition has struggled to make its voice heard over a din of pro-government sentiment on state-controlled television, which invariably presents opponents of Mr. Putin as traitors in cahoots with the West.

But Mr. Navalny, a charismatic anti-corruption campaigner who helped lead the 2011-12 protests, has shown a knack for turning repressive action against him and his followers to his own advantage. When an assailant doused him in a green liquid in Siberia last week, he exulted that his face made him look like a superhero.

Instead of directly attacking Mr. Putin, who is hugely popular outside more liberal-leaning cities like Moscow, Mr. Navalny has focused on rallying support by exposing corruption, an issue that alarms even many of Mr. Putin’s supporters.
Russian officers detaining a man during the demonstration. Credit Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press
Mr. Putin, who is widely expected to seek another term as president in elections next year, has ruled Russia as president or prime minister since the former president, Boris N. Yeltsin, resigned on Dec. 31, 1999. He faces no credible opposition other than that mobilized by Mr. Navalny, the founder and leader of the Foundation for Fighting Corruption.

The opposition leader has declared his intention to run in the 2018 presidential race, despite a criminal conviction in February on fraud charges that made him ineligible to compete but was widely viewed as a political ploy to keep him out of the race.

Even if Mr. Navalny manages to compete for the presidency, he has little chance of winning. But his presence on the ballot would end what since 2000 have been a series of tightly choreographed presidential contests that resembled coronations.

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Dmitri Charishnikov, a 36-year-old web designer who answered Mr. Navalny’s call to walk up and down Tverskaya Street, said protests would change nothing as most Russians “believe what they see on television” and strongly support Mr. Putin. But he added that he still wanted to show that “another Russia still exists.”

Nearby, a police officer shouted through a bullhorn that all those walking in the area were “participants in an unsanctioned gathering” and must immediately disperse or risk prosecution.

State television, the main source of news for most Russians, responded to the protests by ignoring them.

In a report published this month, Mr. Navalny detailed how Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev, a close ally of Mr. Putin’s, had built a lavish empire of mansions, country estates, luxury yachts, an Italian vineyard and an 18th-century palace near St. Petersburg.

Mr. Navalny called for the protests after Russia’s Parliament, which is dominated by United Russia — a political party loyal to Mr. Putin — ignored demands for an investigation into accusations of corruption by senior government officials.

By dusk on Sunday, the protests in Moscow had wound down after sporadic scuffles between the police and protesters.

Russian news media reported at least one police officer was taken to a hospital in Moscow with head injuries. A spokesman for the interior ministry in St. Petersburg denied reports one of its officers had died after being beaten by protesters.


The New York Times

March 1, 2014

BIG Unrest in Venezuela


  WASHINGTON — Venezuela's largest protests since the death of longtime leader Hugo Chavez nearly one year ago are sweeping the country. Rampant inflation, violent crime and chronic shortages of basic goods are fueling the outrage that is dividing the South American nation.

August 17, 2013

Gay Rights Activist Stage Kiss-In Protest In Front of Russian Consulate


Gay Rights Activists Stage Kiss-In Protest In Front Of Russian Consulate In Antwerp, Belgium (Video)
Over 400 men and women staged a kiss-in protest outside the Russian Consulate in Antwerp, Belgium on Friday to demonstrate support for Russia’s LGBT community and protest against that country’s recently approved anti-gay laws.
The event named “To Russia with Love,” coincided with the final days of World Out Games, being held in Antwerp.

Many of the kiss-in participants included openly gay athletes, who called for the Winter 2014 Olympic Games to be moved out of Sochi and to another location.

August 11, 2013

Hundreds Gather in London to Protest Russian Treatment of Gays Human Rights

 Hundreds attend a protest in London against anti-gay laws in Russia. (Angela Clerkin)
Hundreds attend a protest in London against anti-gay laws in Russia (Angela Clerkin)
Hundreds of people gathered in London on Saturday to protest against the treatment of LGBT people in Russia.
It is believed to be the largest gay rights protest in the UK capital in recent years.
"Stephen Fry walked along the whole length of the protest like an ambassador, and everyone was cheering him," said an eyewitness.
Stephen Fry attended the London protest and called for athletes at the 014 Sochi Winter Olympics to protest against homophobia. (Angela Clerkin)
Stephen Fry called for athletes at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to protest against homophobia (Angela Clerkin)
The writer and broadcaster stopped by a group who were supporting LGBT rights in Uganda to talk to TV cameras.
Fry has called on athletes competing at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia to cross their arms across their chests at the Games to protest at the anti-gay laws.
 The broadcaster accepted that it was unlikely that the Games would be boycotted or moved from Russia, but hoped athlete protests would show solidarity with campaigners and "take the sweetness of victory out of Putin's mouth", he told the BBC.
Anti-Putin sentiments ran high at the London protest. (Angela Clerkin)
Anti-Putin sentiment ran high at the London protest (Angela Clerkin)
A Russian law, passed in June, prescribes heavy fines for anyone providing information about homosexuality to people under 18 - but Moscow denies it is discriminatory.
Demonstrators are calling for the government to put pressure on Russia to repeal the laws.
Critics of the anti-propaganda law have said it effectively disallows all gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for homosexuals.
The law, as well as a ban on the adoption of children by same-sex couples, are part of a more conservative course taken by President Vladimir Putin on social issues since his return to the Kremlin in May 2012.
Line dancers limber up against anti-gay rights. (Angela Clerkin)
Line dancers limber up against anti-gay rights (Angela Clerkin)
"Putin is the 'Czar of Homophobia'," veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wrote on his website ahead of the protests.
"His regime has outlawed the public expression of LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) identity and affection - and prohibited the advocacy of LGBT human rights - in circumstances where a person under 18 might see it."
Protesters wielded banners bearing slogans such as "We are not Putin up with homophobic Olympics" and blow-up dolls superimposed with President Putin's face.
There was one scuffle with police as some protesters ran out into the streets to stop cars. Police moved in quickly to disperse them. Overall, there was a very low-key police presence in what was largely a peaceful protest.
LGBT demonstrators called for a change in Russia's policy that has attracted criticism from world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, gay bars in London and across the UK have called for a show of solidarity against Russia's anti-gay laws by boycotting Russian vodka. 

June 5, 2013

Slogans Wins The Day in Turkey

Turkish Taksim Square, Turkey: the best slogans, graffiti and hats from the anti Government protest

TURKEY is rocking. People are challenging the ruling Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP). The authorities wanted to build on the green Gezi Park in Taksim Square, Istanbul. Plans featured a shopping mall and a mosque. A few protestors moved to occupy the site. Police hit them with tear gas, pepper spray and water cannon. The police overreaction was met with fury.
Days earlier the Government had banned the late-night sale of booze. Many fear Turkey tuning into a harder-line Islamic state. Taksim Square would be the place to take a stand against authority.
In the ensuing violence, two people are dead. Hundreds have been arrested. Thousands have been hurt..
But the protests have not been without humour. We’ve got pictures of some of the best and worst graffiti and slogans. And a few interesting hats.
Don’t just protest. Laugh at the bastards
If there is no park i will shit on the shopping mall Taksim Square, Turkey: the best slogans, graffiti and hats from the anti Government protest
If there is no park, i will shit on the shopping mall
Police sell pastries live honourably Taksim Square, Turkey: the best slogans, graffiti and hats from the anti Government protest
Police, sell pastries, live honourably

May 5, 2013

Rally in Bangladesh Against ("Atheists must be hanged”) the Unreligious Turns Deadly

  Four people were killed and hundreds injured as a rally in the capital of Bangladesh turned violent. Police used tear gas to disperse thousands of Islamist protesters in the streets of Dhaka who demanded execution for “blasphemous” blogging.
"One point, One demand: Atheists must be hanged", chanted the demonstrators as they marched along at least six highways, blocking transport between Dhaka and other cities and towns.
The protesters are reportedly the activists from the Hefajat-e-Islam group, which blames some Internet users for blasphemy; accusing people of using their blogs to spread atheism and apparent lies about Islam.
The members of the radical Islamist group demanded the death penalty for those who they think defame Islam. The 13-point list of demands also included a ban on the right of women to work outside the household and the prohibition for women to mix with men. The Islamists also demanded the release of those accused of war crimes during country’s liberation war in 1971, which established the sovereign nation of Bangladesh. 
 Bangladeshi police baton charge Islamists during clashes in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)
Bangladeshi police fire rubber bullets towards demonstrators during clashes with Islamists in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)

Islamist protestors run as Bangladeshi police fire rubber bullets towards demonstrators during clashes with Islamists in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)
 Civilian people carry an injured Islamist protestor during clashes with police in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)
 The government of Bangladesh has declined the group’s demands to enact an anti-blasphemy law saying that the country lives by secular liberal laws. The leaders of Hefajat-e-Islam promised to launch a campaign to dethrone the government unless their demands are met.
The radical Islamist group was formed in 2010 to protest the government's secular policies in education and politics. Last month it organized a general strike as well as a gathering attended by hundreds of thousands of activists, during three people died and more than 50 were injured. 
  The demonstrators gathered in the capital’s Motijheel commercial district, amounting to between 150,000 to 200,000 people according to AFP. On their way, they set shops and vehicles on fire, according to police accounts.
Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters after they reportedly set off homemade explosives and threw stones at security.  Local authorities had to deploy more than 15,000 security forces to the area.
Bangladeshi police fire rubber bullets towards demonstrators during clashes with Islamists in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)

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