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Artists Hold New York City Protest Against Belarus

Theater artists and members of Amnesty International rallied in New York Wednesday to protest the crackdown on Belarus activists and artists, including the Belarus Free Theatre.

The rally outside Belarus’s permanent mission followed the Belarus Free Theater’s acclaimed New York run of the play, "Being Harold Pinter." About 200 demonstrators called for an end to arrests and mistreatment of actors, journalists, and political activists in Belarus.

Oskar Eustis artistic director of Manhattan’s Public Theater, noted it was unusual for theater artists to hold a political demonstration - but said it was their duty in this case.

"This demonstration isn’t against a foreign government. This demonstration is for human rights, it’s for free speech, it’s for the release of the political prisoners and the ability of the Belarus people to speak freely about their own situation," Eustis said.

Belarus’s presidential election in December, in which President Alexsander Lukashenko was re-elected, has been termed fraudulent and absurd by Western leaders. Protests in Belarus that followed were met with a massive government crackdown. At the New York rally, American playwright Tony Kushner had harsh words for Lukashenko.

"There is a decline in support of this man and his monstrous policies in Russia. Pessure on the Obama administration, on the UN and on the Congress to insist that Russia stop supporting this man and condemn what’s going on in Belarus is particularly effective at a time like this," he said.

Leaders of the rally have called for the appointment of a special U.N. rapporteur to investigate unreasonable use of force by Belarus’s government following the disputed election.