Hundreds gather in Brest to protest unemployment tax
Several hundred people demonstrated today in central Brest as part of a nation-wide protest against the controversial unemployment tax imposed by President Lukashenka’s Decree No. 3 “On Preventing Social Dependency”. According to Radio Free Europe’s Belarus service, the protest gathered around a thousand people.
A few days before the announced date of the demonstration, security forces began to hunt the most active participants of the previous protests, collectively known as the Non-Parasites’ March.
In particular, on March 2, Aliaksandr Kabanau, activist of the United Civil Party who campaigned against the tax, was detained twice in the town of Biaroza. He was eventually charged with alleged disorderly conduct.
On March 3, Brest police detained activist Natallia Papkova. She was then taken to the district mental hospital. According to her sister, Natallia Papkova has gone on a hunger strike to protest the illegal detention.
Several opposition politicians, including UCP leader Anatol Liabedzka and Belarusian Christian Democracy co-chair Vital Rymasheuski, were not allowed to join the protest after their car was stopped by traffic police on suspicion of theft. They were later released without charges.
During the protest outside the city executive committee, Mayor Aliaksandr Rahachuk invited the protesters to negotiate in the committee’s assembly hall. As a result, about 150 people followed the official.
The event was guarded by numerous police officers. A police spokesperson said they possessed enough people to stop provocations. Meanwhile, the anarchists involved in the demonstration feared they might be held by the security forces. However, no detentions followed.
Before finalizing the event, activist Aliaksandr Kabanau called on people to join the Non-Parasites’ March expected to be held next week in Minsk.
The previous protest took place in Brest on February 26. It was attended by about 300 people.