1 May action brings detentions and arrests
About 30 activists of the civil campaign European Belarus were detained yesterday near the National Library in Minsk suburb Uruccha where pro-regime trade unions were celebrating May Day. Among the detained are Yauhen Afnahel, Andrei Babitski, Zmitser Barodka, the Young Front leaders Zmitser Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich, Zmitser Khvedaruk, and chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada) Mikola Statkevich.
It happened after more than 100 activists of the civil campaign European Belarus came to the National library on 1 May and unfurled dozens of European flags at the official demonstration. 1 May is marked officially in Belarus as Labor Day. This date has important meaning both for Europe and Belarus: four years ago ten new states joined the European Union and the EU borders extended to our country.
As soon as EU flags appeared among the red-green ones at the official demonstration, riot police officers run up to oppositionists. Riot policemen snatched EU flags away, broke flagpoles and took away blue cloths with stars. Besides, riot policemen hindered work of photo correspondents: beat cameras, pushed journalists away and used foul language.
After the mass detention at the trade union demonstration a European Belarus activist noted to the Charter’97 press center: ‘Lukashenka is always complaining that he repeatedly invited the opposition to attend official holidays. The demonstration and concert has been advertised for two weeks. We have come, and what is the result? We were encircled by riot policemen, who snatched and tore flags and arrested people.’
‘Why does Lukashenka like European money so much and doesn’t like European flags?’ another young oppositionist wondered when riot policemen were snatching a European flag from her hands.
All of the detainees were taken to the police department of Pershamaiski district. The associates of the detained decided to stage a rally in support of their friends in front of the police department. Journalist Henadz Barbarych was among witnesses of that.
‘Young people formed a line and produced portraits of political prisoners… In just a minute riot policemen ran out of the police department,’ Henadz Barbarych told to Narodnaya Volia. ‘I was an onlooker, but riot policemen were not interested to find out anything and invited me to follow them.’ Together with Barbarych the police also detained Paval Kuryianovich, activist of the civil campaign European Belarus and Young Front activist Anastasiya Palazhanka.The detainees were placed to the assembly hall of the police department: ‘I started putting down the names of the detainees. At that moment two persons in mufti noticed that two girls had a white-red-white flag. They tried to seize it, but the girls were resisting. One of them, Volha Zhurauliova, was pregnant, but policemen pushed her… I could not stand it any more, and came near and asked them: ‘What are you doing?’ When they learnt I am a journalist they seized me brutally and in fact carried me out of the hall. A report was not drawn up against me. In a little while young people who had been detained with me, where released as well.’