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20.03.2007

Belarusian “flash mob”

   

19 March is not an ordinary day for Belarusians. A year ago, on the day of the presidential elections, tens of thousands of people came out onto October Square to protest against the arrests that had taken place just before the elections. 1,318, as it later became known, spent that day behind bars. A year later youth activists decided to remember that date and honour those who suffered repression.

At 8 p.m. young people gathered on October Square for a flash mob action. The word flash mob has become quite commonly used in Belarus. Such actions involve a large number of people suddenly appearing in a place and for a few minutes carrying out movements or actions previously arranged, and then just as quickly dispersing.

The flash mob actions are only discussed on the Internet so that they don’t attract attention. The Belarusian authorities treat any information about flash mobs as calls to riots.

According to Radio Svoboda’s Belarusian correspondent: “The plan is that they will simply stand on the square without banners, without slogans or flags, and drivers passing by the square will toot their horns in solidarity with those people who had the courage to come out onto October Square a year ago.”

“The car horns will show that Belarus is alive”

Boris Garetsky, the press secretary of “Youth Front” was not on the Square a year ago, having been arrested just before the day and imprisoned for “participation in an unregistered organization”.  Today he was on the Square and explained: “Today, a year after the events which changed modern Belarus, we are expecting Belarusians to come here again to mark the anniversary. Cars will give the signal for the beginning of the action. The car horns will tell everybody in Belarus that it’s time to wake up and will tell the whole world that Belarus is alive. And it will tell the regime that the bells are tolling for them”.

A year ago such acts of solidarity cost car drivers 32 thousand roubles. The traffic police noted down their number plates and sent fines. However, despite that, drivers did not stop the movement, loudly and continuously signalling their support for those on the Square. During those days the exits from the metro and pedestrian underpasses were blocked by special forces [spetsnaz] and police in plain clothes. Young people had sleeping bags and food taken away.

 

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