1 May Action in Minsk
Several thousands of Belarusians took part in the rally of solidarity with political prisoners held on 1 May in Minsk. Protesters demanded to release Aliaksandr Milinkevich and dozens of opposition activists, arrested for their political views. Participants of the protest marched from the center of the city to Bangalore square under national white-red-white flags, scanning ‘Freedom!’ A meeting and a concert of solidarity with political prisoners took part on Bangalore Square. After the meeting policemen handed in a writ to the chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada Stanislau Shushkevich. He is to come to the court of Savetski district of Minsk on May 3 at 10 a.m. The first leader of the independent Belarus faces the threat of arrest for holding a peaceful rally on May Day.
Initially the democratic forces planned holding a rally on May Day with the slogans ‘No to the contract system!’ It should be explained that the contract system in its form existing in Belarus is generally called ‘a convenient way of inflicting punishment to workers’. As fundamentally there is only one employer in the country, the state, the contract system allows the authorities to fire freely all dissenters.
In connection with the arrests of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition after the Charnobylski Shlyakh rally, the organizers of the rally submitted another claim, to release all political prisoners.
The city authorities have prohibited the democratic forces to hold rallies in the center of the city. All oppositional parties that have submitted an application to Minsk city executive committee for holding a protest on Labour Day, were sent to a deserted Bangalore Square.
Despite of that, organizers stated that the rally would be held in the planned format, and participants of the rally gathered at 11 a.m. by the Academy of Sciences. The police warned the organizers of the rally about possible arrests for unsanctioned action by the Academy of Sciences.
The participants of the protest marched along the sidewalks in an organized columns up to Bangalore Square. The demonstrators were carrying national white-red-white flags and scanned ‘Freedom to political prisoners!’
At Bangalore Square a meeting was held. Its participants made both political and economic demands. The protesters were holding streamers: ‘Freedom to political prisoners!’, ‘Freedom to Mikita Sasim!’, ‘Freedom. Truth. Justice’, ‘Freedom to Milinkevich!’, ‘Civil Society against police state’, ‘Today a contract - tomorrow a prison camp’, ‘A contract is a slipknot for workers’, ‘ Decent pensions for pensioners!’, ‘No to fee-for-service medicine!’, ‘Guarantees for the young people!’, ‘For work in one’s profession’, ‘For decent salaries’, ‘Fees and pensions are incomparable’.
The vice-chairman of the United Civil party Aliaksandr Dabravolski, the deputy chairman of the Belarusian People’s Front Iury Khadyka, the vice-chairman of the Party of Communists of Belarus Valery Ukhnaliou, one of the leaders of the Young Front Aliaksei Shein and the wife of Aliaksandr Milinkevich, Ina Kulei, addressed the meeting.
Participants of the meeting demanded to release political prisoners: the leader of the democratic forces Aliaksandr Milinkevich, the Belarusian People’s Front Vintsuk Viachorka, the chairman of the Party of Communists of Belarus Siarhei Kaliakin, the leader of the Young Front Zmitser Dashkevich, the leader of the Party of Labour Aliaksandr Bukhvostau, former candidate for presidency Aliaksandr Kazulin, youth leaders Mikita Sasim, Artur Finkevich, public activists Tsimafei Dranchuk, Mikalai Astreika, Enira Branitskaia, Aliaksandr Shalaika, Dzianis Nibiika, the leader of entrepreneurs Valery Levaneuski, the chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaia Hramada) Mikola Statkevich, the deputy of the 13th Supreme Soviet Andrei Klimau, an entrepreneur Mikalai Autukhovich, opposition activists Mikalai Rozumau, Iury Radzivil, Siarhei Liashkevich.
‘Today every patriot of Belarus, every conscious citizen has all reasons to show solidarity. On 19 March we understood that there won’t be free elections in Belarus. We have been deprived of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of associations. A senseless reprisal over our brave young people, over opposition leaders is taking place. The regime has shown that it cannot exist without violence, without breaking laws, without lies. This regime is on the verge of death,’ said the deputy chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front Yury Khadyka. Addressing the meeting.
The wife of the Belarusian opposition leader Inna Kulej in her speech said that the day before the leader of the democratic forces and leaders of political parties were placed in different cells on 27 April, though the first four days they spent together.
‘Look how the regime is afraid of us! They were afraid when a free tent camp emerged on the square of Kalinouski, when thousands of people took to the streets on 25 March. On 26 April the officials were afraid as well, and now they are afraid too! Until yesterday opposition leaders were sitting in the special detention center in Akrestsin street in one cell, and yesterday we were told that they were taken to different cells, as they had been planning a coup. Disgrace to this regime! Let’s be strong, let’s be together, and we are bound to win!’ told the wife of the opposition leader.
During the meeting well-known Belarusian musicians Liavon Volski (N.R.M.) and Ihar Varashkevich (Krama), and the bands ‘Partyzanskaya Shkola’, ‘Red on white’, ‘Imperator’ have performed.
Liavon Volski expressed solidarity with political prisoners and jokingly proposed the filming crew of the Belarusian TV to say in its news items about the rally that ‘while the whole nation as one was taking part in subbotnik (spring litter pick), opposition leaders with their usual cynicism were having rest in Akrestsin street’.
After the meeting its participants approved two resolutions. One of them demands immediate release of political prisoners and Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s release.
One should note that the leadership of the Minsk police, special task police regiment, and SOBR commander Dzmitry Paulichenka suspected by the world community of abductions of the Belarusian opposition leaders, were watching the opposition rally.