The Social March, organized by a number of Belarusian opposition parties and organizations on Sunday (Nov. 04, 2007), was an experience of a somewhat different kind. It was one of the least attended, one of the least consolidated, and still one of the most violent opposition actions of the recent time.
The idea of the Social March comes from the left wing of the opposition, namely from the dissenting (which official registration was recently suspended) Belarusian Party of Communists in the first place. This explains the wild assortment of flags, which could be seen during the action.
(photo by Julia Darashkevich)
The Social March was conceived as a protest against the recent trend in the social policy of the regime, which canceled most privileges (free medications, reducted public transportation fares, etc.) to various categories of Belarusians, including children, students and retired people.
Even the place, where the action should have taken place, became a major disintegrative factor for the opposition. About 700 people (most of them rather elderly) gathered near the headquarters of the Academy of Sciences. Many carried red flags. White-red-white banners as well as black-and-red anarchist flags could also be seen.
However, when the actual march began, the mass of people seemed to have split into two parts. One group went in the direction of the Bangalore Square. On the way, a major fight between the anarchists…
(photo by Julia Darashkevich)
…and the right-wing-radical youth organization “Belaya Volya”…
(photo by Anrey Liankevich)
The police did not interfere.
If the anarchists have been around for a while (at least since 1996), then “Belaya Volya” is a rather new and strange phenomenon. Positioning itself as an oppositional organization, it resembles a neo-nazi skinhead group in its ideology, and is nevertheless often accused of being manipulated by secret services (to be fair, the same is often said about most youth organizations, including the anarchists). The people who witnessed the fight pointed out the good organization and discipline of the “Belaya Volya” activists, most (if not all) of them – Russian-speaking, despite of the manifested pro-Belarusian nationalistic views.
Some participants of the Social March refused to come to the notorious Bangalore square and gathered on October Square. Viktar Ivashkevich, one of Belarusian Popular Front leaders, tried to gather them under his flags and join the rally on the Bangalore Square.
A group of youth (several dozens people) disobeyed and marched along Independence Avenue towards the Independence Square.
Photo by Julia Darashkevich
Amazingly, they were not stopped, and even managed to hold a small protest action right in front of the Parliament building. The Independence Square, usually out-of-bounds for protesters, was for some reason free from the otherwise omnipresent uniformed guards. Nevertheless, some plainclothes policemen taped the group of youth on their videocameras.
Акцыя скончылася пад будынкам парлямэнту сьпяваньнем гімна "Магутны Божа"
Photos by Julia Darashkevich
The Social March has left a strong aftertaste of disorientation. True, there were pre-emptive arrests prior to the Social March, but the police didn’t interfere with the course of the action. Instead, the violence seems to have come from within the group of protesters. Or is just an illusion instigated by the provocators? Сan you call groups like “Belaya Volya” opposition after all? What should you think of the anarchists? How do you combine communist red flags and the white-red-white national banners? And, most importantly: why are people reluctant to participate in the events like the Social March, which seems to address the down-to-earth issues like level of life and social policy? There are more questions than answers. There is disillusionment, distrust, and the fatal lack of consensus within the opposition even on minor logistical issues – and this what suits the regime the most.
Another report by Andrey Liankevich can be found here