News / Europe

Belarus Police Break Up Peaceful Protest

Belarusian policemen detain protesters during the 'Revolution via social network' protest in Minsk, June 22, 2011
Belarusian policemen detain protesters during the 'Revolution via social network' protest in Minsk, June 22, 2011
James Brooke

Six months after protests against fraudulent elections led to a brutal crackdown against Belarus' political opposition, Belarusians are coming out to protest again - this time against the nation’s economic collapse.  

This is a protest Belarus-style.  The loudest voices are those of the police, telling people to disperse.

Protesters do not chant slogans.  They do not carry signs.  They do not wear political T-shirts or buttons.  They just walk on the sidewalks, mingle and chat on a summer evening.

But that apparently was too much for the government of Belarus - on edge after a 50-percent devaluation of the Belarusian ruble in recent weeks.

To break up what is now a weekly protest, police in Minsk detained scores of people Wednesday night, including Oleg Gruzdilovich, a correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The arrests came after President Alexander Lukashenko, the long-running dictator of Belarus, threatened to fire his interior minister if another protest took place against his government.  In a rambling, five-hour press conference, the president denounced social networks and threatened to shut down the Internet.

Vyesna, a human rights group, said that hundreds of Facebook and Twitter users were interrogated in recent days by agents of the secret police, still called the KGB in Belarus.

Despite the crackdown, many of the thousands of young people mingling in downtown Minsk on Wednesday said they were alerted by social networks and a Youtube protest film that has gone viral.

Dmitry, a 22-year-old history student, said that invitations to the protest were all over the Internet this week.

“We want a change,” he said. “We want to live in a free country.”

Like many protesters, Dmitry declined to give his last name.  He said a classmate had been arrested during protests over the presidential elections last December.  Her parents were fired from their jobs.  After she was released from jail, she went to study in Poland.

Dmitry said that after the devaluation, his mother’s monthly salary at a childcare center has fallen to $190.  He said he would like to emigrate, maybe joining his sister and grandmother in New Jersey in the United States.

To keep protest numbers down, the city’s subway did not stop at downtown stations this evening.  Police closed road and pedestrian access to the square.

Despite these moves, reporters said that the turnout was twice as large as at the protest one week earlier.

As policemen herded protesters away from a central meeting point, passing car drivers started to blow their horns.

Dmitry Ilyushin, who has a small business, said he came to make his little contribution.

Anything more, he said, and he would be arrested.

He did not know that as he spoke, people several blocks away were being arrested for mingling.

Dmitry, a 40-year-old government worker came from work in coat and tie.  For fear of losing his job, he refused to give his name.

Asked why he was joining the protest, he replied with his own question.

He asked, “Did you see the prices in the stores?”

As bankrupt as Greece, Belarus has enough foreign currency to pay for one, maybe two months of imports.

It looks like tougher economic times are ahead for Belarus.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs