Police disbanded rally ‘For Independence!’
On 14 May a rally of the opposition timed to the anniversary of referendum on changing state symbols and introduction of two state languages was disbanded in Minsk. Dozens of riot policemen with truncheons clashed with people under white-red-white flags.
The rally called For Independence! March was planned to be held in Minsk by the Young Front activists. On 14 May 1995 a referendum was held in Belarus. As a result of it the national white-red-white flag and the coat of arms Pahonia with a knight were replaced by neo-Soviet symbols. The Russian language received a status of the national language alongside with the Belarusian. As a result, the historical white-red-white flag was banned in Belarus, and people were arrested for raising it at rallies. At the state level the Russian language is given a preference, while Belarusian language schools are closed, while almost all state-run mass media rarely use the native tongue.
Protesting against such practices of the regime, activists of the Young Front and of the civil campaign European Belarus gathered in Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk on the anniversary of the referendum of the year 1995.
Before the rally detentions of pro-democracy activists in provinces who had planned to go to Minsk took place. In particular, they detained the Young Front activist Aliaksei Viarheichyk (he was released after the action without any violation report drawn up). Oppositionists were arrested immediately before the rally. Policemen were on duty near houses of many pro-democracy activists.
By the beginning of the rally at 6 p.m. dozens of riot policemen in mufti and in uniform were already in Kastrychnitskaya Square. Passports of many people who came to the square at that moment were checked.
However, about two dozens of young activists managed to gather there. Participants of the rally unfurled national white-red-white flags and the streamer Young Front. Dozens of riot policemen with truncheons immediately attacked the young people. Applying force, even beating young girls, riot policemen started to drive people away from the square, one of the activists was dragged by a policeman by the hair on the asphalt. At the same tome riot policemen with frenzy wrested flags from the hands of oppositionists, breaking flagpoles.
As a protest the young people sat on the ground locking hands. The demonstrators were surrounded by a tight circle. Being in the circle, they chanted ‘Long live Belarus!’, ‘Freedom to political prisoners!’ and sang the anthem ‘Mighty God’.
People were kept inside the cordon for an hour. When people started to leave the square, one of the participants of the rally tried to attach a white-red-white flag on the lamp-post. Several riot policemen immediately ran up to her and seized the flag using force.
Several other oppositionists were taken to the police department of Kastrychnitski district, including the activists of the European Belarus Yauhen Skrabets and Alesia Yakubouskaya and the activists of the Young Front Pavel Kuryianovich and Valer Matskevich.
An activist of the Young Front Aliaksei Yanusheuski was detained on his way from the rally right in the bus #100.
People in mufti were escorting participants of the rally till the headquarters of the Belarusian Popular Front party along Masherau Street. Right in front of the office several other activists of the Yong Front were detained.