The March of Millions

By Slava Tsukerman

On June 12 the huge demonstration dubbed the “March of Millions” took place in Moscow.

This symbolic name is used by protesters for the second time. The first “March of Millions”  took place in the Russian capital on May 6 – the eve of Putin’s inauguration. Protesters demanded democratization of the country and new, fair elections of Russian Parliament – Duma and President.

Putin and Medvedev had been giving a lot of promises, but none of them was fulfilled. In contrary, there are a lot of signs of the start of the severe repression of opposition.

The protest movement kept going on through the entire May and the beginning of June. It took different forms.

By the initiative of a big group of the popular writers, thousands of Muscovites were meeting with them in Moscow central streets, just to discuss books and get autographs. It was a peaceful way to demonstrate citizens’ right to gather together in the streets, the right questioned by Putin.

Several groups of “occupy” movements settled their tent camps in different Moscow areas.  In spite of peaceful and extremely organized character of these camps, they finally were removed by authorities.

During the first “March of Millions” there were some acts of violence during the event. A lot of peaceful participants of the demonstration were beaten up by police and some policemen were injured by stones thrown by extremists and masked provocateurs. None of the policemen were punished for their violence, but slightly injured policemen were publicly praised by Putin as heroes and awarded with new apartments.

The authorities made everything to prevent the success of the second “March of Millions”

Several days before the “March”, Putin signed into law draconian legislation increasing fines to $10,000 for participants and $30,000 for organizers involved in protests that are unauthorized, attract larger crowds than permitted, do not follow the permitted route, or cause damage or injury.  The first time in the history of Putin’s rule, not only usual protesters, but even “official” Parliament opposition traditionally loyal to Putin protested against this law as anti–constitutional. President’s official Committee on Human Rights also joined the opposition,

On the eve of the “March of Millions” the homes of key members of the opposition were searched by police.   All their documents, computers, family archives and even money were seized by police, who demonstratively behaved with disregard of the Russian laws. All those who had their apartments searched were required to appear for questioning exactly at the time the second “March of Millions” was scheduled to begin. So the demonstration was deprived of its leaders and organizers.

The investigation seeks to discern if any of the opposition figures are guilty of organizing mass unrest. If charged, they could face a potential jail sentence of 10 years.

On the day of the “March” a lot of events, such as “free admission day” at the Moscow Planetarium were appointed by authorities to engage potential demonstrators into different activity.  Nature seemed to cooperate with authorities: almost all that day it was raining in Moscow.

But in spite of all that, by opinion of many, the “March” brought to the streets more people then any event of the last years. Official police figure is 15,000, but everybody who was there finds this estimation fake.  The protesters think that at least 150,000 participated in the demonstration and the meeting that followed it.

The two-mile route of the “March”, by the demand of authorities, included extremely narrow streets.  Obviously authorities hoped that passing of the huge crowd through these bottlenecks would create some unrest.

But Muscovites of all ages and political conviction showed discipline never known before. Even columns of the usual enemies, such as the column of nationalists and the column of the Gay activists, marched side-by-side.

Nobody was arrested.

Columns flooded the city center, chanting ” Russia without Putin” and “Enough of KGB rule.”

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Many Russian political observers think that the end of the Putin’s Era is very close.

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Updated: July 2, 2012 — 3:08 pm
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