Brutal Belarusian Solidarity Day
A demonstration yesterday, 16 February, to mark Belarusian Solidarity Day was violently broken up by police and riot police in Minsk.
Opposition leaders and activists, former political prisoners, together with other members of the public, gathered on October Square in the centre of Minsk. They held portraits of people who have been arrested: Mikalay Autukhovich, Yury Lyavonau, Uladzimir Asipenka, Artsyom Dubsk.
Among those taking part were former political prisoners Alexander Kazulin, Andrei Kim, Zmitser Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich, Enira Bronitskaya, Timofei Drachuk and Anatoly Lebedko.
Demonstrators at the solidarity rally unfurled banners calling for the release of those arrested, an end to terror, and freedom for Belarus.
The rally lasted only about 10 minutes before the riot police moved in. Demonstrators were brutally pushed off the square, or thrown to the ground, kicked and beaten with batons and fists. People began running with others still lying on the ground. Charter 97 says that it was reminiscent of the tragic stampede a few years ago when a large number of young people were killed.
At least one person, one of the leaders of the civil campaign “European Belarus” Zmitser Barodka was badly beaten when attempted to protect a young woman who had fallen.
Belarusian Solidarity Days have been held since, on 16 September 2005, the sixth anniversary of the disappearance of vice-speaker of parliament from the 13th session, Viktor Gonchar and business and public figure Anatoly Krasovsky, the police broke up a memorial gathering. They removed portraits those present were holding of politicians who disappeared without trace (these also included ex-Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Zakharenko and journalist Dmitry Zavadsky) and national flags. On that day the youth leader Nikita Sasim held his denim shirt above his head as a symbol of resistance to dictatorship.
Information about the demonstration at www.charter97.org