Today in three major cities of Belarus – Minsk, Mogilev and Grodno – people took the streets protesting against government attempts to collect tax off the unemployed (details of the story HERE). In Minsk, demonstrations managed to gather more that 1 500 people, in Mogilev and Grodno 1 000 each. These are the biggest protests those cities have seen in decades. It is worth mentioning that most of the protesters are far from major political powers in the country and do not align with any opposition stream, rather prefer to point out the hard economical conditions and results of 24 years of Lukashenkos rule.
Around 40 anarchists organized in a separate block participated in the demonstration with banners saying “For the people, the main social parasite are the bureaucrats, politicians and the police” (refering to the law against social parasites introduced 2015 that is the major reason for recent protests). To make the demonstration a little bit more fun, a samba band in black joined the block. Inside of the demonstration, anarchists were by far the most organized force that took a lot of attention from the police.
During the whole demonstration, 20-30 civil cops were constantly following the anarchist block and at the end of the demo tried to arrest some people. Anarchists together with other participants of the demo managed to unarrest people and get into public transport – a tactic that was quite successful in the past months, when anarchists managed to get out safely. However it was stopped a couple of minutes later by a bus without license plates and civil cops rushing into the public transport. To get the people out , the pigs used not only brute force beating up people, but also pepper sprayed the trolleybus (an action one of the football hooligans got 10 years in jail for in Belarus just last week). At the end of the confrontation, around 30-35 people were detained including several bystanders, who were trying to help people resist the police. By the end of the day, some activists were beaten up so badly that the cops had to call an ambulance.
Right now, all the arrested are in jail in Minsk police stations awaiting trial tomorrow. Judging from recent developments, most probably they will be punished with 15 days in jail.
Furthermore it has been reported that over 9 people from the demonstration were detained in Mogilev. Their destiny is not clear yet.
Lawyers and food parcels are covered so far by human right activists. But you can always support people with solidarity actions next to local embassies or Lukashenko’s mansions. Apart from that you can share the news, and make the topic more visible around you.
By the moment this article is written, over 150 people were detained and sentenced to fines or some short prison terms for protests in last weeks in Belarus.
Biggest protests in Belarus in the last 10 year
In Belarus last weeks people took to the streets to fight the law against social parasitism – law that was signed by dictator Lukashenko in 2015, but started troubling population only at the beginning of the 2017. Thousands took to the streets in Minsk, Brest, Gomel and many other smaller cities all around the country, to show their discontent with the law and the current regime. The protests seems to have little influence from “official” opposition- instead of that people previously not involved in the politics are organizing together. In several places anarchist played quite a big role in the protests. Last week belarusian government started repressions against those on the streets – up until now over 48 people were detained and prosecuted for different violations.
Belarusian government started talking about social parasitism somewhere after 2010 elections. The idea was not new to the region – previously in soviet union people who were not officially employed were always under threat of prosecution. This time belarusian government was doing the same – Lukashenko wanted to punish those who are not working or working but not paying taxes.
Slowly step by step through several ministries the idea have crystallized – the law was written and presented to Lukashenko who eagerly signed it. Inside it was stated that every person who is not working for more than 6 months in a year have to pay a “tax” to the state to cover the “social” state – free public health care and education. The sum to pay for many people was quite big – around 180 euro per year, with an average salary somewhere between 200 to 300 euro per month depending on the region of the country.
This was done next to already existing humiliating quantity of 15 dollars per months for those officially registered at the unemployment center – money that you would only get after one day of work assigned by the unemployment agency.
Of course in 2015 there was already a certain level of discontent, but it never turned into real protests – the law promised to start working only in 2017, and a lot of people were expecting that the government would back off. Instead of that by the end of 2016, beginning of 2017, people began to receive something that got nicknamed “letters of happiness” where it was stated that due to their “financial inactivity” in 2015 they have to pay a tax to the state. And that was the moment when it stroke a lot of people – by the official state media around 450 000 people are affected by the law (with the working population around 5 000 000 people).
You could avoid paying the tax if you go to the governmental commission and explain yourself and your bad financial situation. This is one of the most humiliating procedures that belarusian people facing financial troubles has to go through.
There is a punishment as well – those who are not capable of paying the law can be sentenced up to 15 days of forced labor or to pay a fine together with the tax.
Marches of nonparasites
First march against the law took place on 17 February 2017 in Minsk. It gathered around 2000 people on a demonstration not allowed by authorities. After a short symbolic march from the palace of republic (main square in Minsk) to the parliament the demo was over and the organizers from the opposition were calling people to go home and come back in one month, giving time for Lukashenko to cancel the law. One of the most organized and loudest groups during the demonstration were the anarchists – and they were the only group that was shortly attacked by the police after demonstration – one banner was stolen, however people were unarrested and left home. Huge support for the anarchist came from usual people that were also resisting the police, escorting participants of the anarchist block to the safe place.
During next week the demonstrations in Gomel and Brest took place, with several thousand participants all together. They were the biggest protests outside Minsk in the whole history of Belarus. In Brest small group of anarchists took over the demonstration from opposition, that was trying to organize a meeting with the local mayor. Instead of that people occupied the streets and went through the city chanting “No to decree #3, Lukashenko go away” (Decree #3 is the official registration number of the law). After the success of the march in Brest several anarchists were arrested at home and sentenced to 5 days in jail. Later on protests moved to smaller cities all around the country with hundreds to thousands participating in different places: Orsha, Bobruisk, Kobrin, Luninec are among those – probably places that you have never heard in your life. Those small towns haven’t seen any demonstrations over decades, and now people are protesting against the law together.
Under the pressure of the protesters Lukashenko had to back off – he officially announced the freezing of the law for 2017, and the return of the money to those who have already paid the tax, but just if they are currently working or will find a work in 2017. This didn’t stop protesters, who are now demanding not only the cancellation of the law but also the retirement of Lukashenko and his government.
Raisins in the bread rolls
Last week on Monday the belarusian state TV has issued a propagandist movie where the whole protesting movement is split into two parts – those who are genuinely affected by the law and deserve compassion, and mere “provocateurs”. The state TV is pointing these “provocateurs” as people who are there to create another Maydan in the region and destroy the country stability. The film explains that among those “provocateurs” are the anarchists who are considered to be chaotic foot troops of liberal nationalists. The movie makes clear that the government is not going to back off under the pressure of the protesters and will repress those who are not conforming.
Lukashenko made a statement as well last week to address the problem. Apart from long tirades from the good king about the bad bureaucrats who understood the law wrongly, he also made a statement saying that there are “special” elements inside of the protests that have their own agenda and are not interesting in the prosperity of the belarusians. Those are again anarchists and opposition activists. Trying to make a metaphor he called those people raisins in the rolls – obviously Lukashenko doesn’t like raisins.
First arrests were made even before the movie was done – several people from Brest were caught after the demonstration by the civil cops that hunted them all around the town. Later on, arrests of some famous opposition members also took place. Last days demonstrations in several towns also ended up with prosecutions again journalists and participants
By now over 48 people were detained and prosecuted for different violations: starting with violating the law on public gatherings and ending up with accusation of immoral behavior on the streets. Different activists got from 5 to 15 days in jail and some of those who were already sentenced to 5 days were rearrested and prosecuted again for swearing in public in front of the prison gates – common tactic of police forces that are rearresting people inside of the prisons without even letting them out.
Map of people arrested can be found here –http://www.svaboda.org/a/28365086.html
The next march is planned on Wednesday 15.03. and people are expecting different scenarios – Lukashenko can freak out completely arresting everybody showing up, or attacking and arresting people after the demonstration. At the same time everything can go smoothly and police will not escalate the conflict. The second is less likely.
Taking into account the recent statement about raisins and anarchist role in destabilizing the whole situation, we out here expect an increase of repressions, and more people detained/arrested than it was in last years.
More Information about repression in Belarus: https://abc-belarus.org
If you feel like supporting anarchists repressed in Belarus you can always donate money to Anarchist Black Cross via:
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