19 July 2018, Thursday, 1:12

Babruisk Activist: We Are To Express Our Opinion In City Center


Halina Smirnova shared the experience of holding daring pickets in defense of the REP trade union and the rights of fellow citizens.

How to convey information to people, if the authorities constantly prohibit pickets and public speeches? Halina Smirnova told praca-by.info about the Babruisk REP trade union activists’ experience.

"Why should I pay the authorities for the right to express my own opinion?"

Halina Smirnova, the head of the Babruisk branch of the REP trade union, spoke about the activists' actions in response to the fact that the Babruisk authorities banned them from holding pickets in support of the REP trade union:

– Naturally, we have filed an application for a different place of picketing, not the one that was appointed by the authorities in advance – as much as ten years ago! The city has long changed. The place for pickets in Babruisk is the stadium of the Slavianka factory. There's a roadway there, and people do not walk past it at all! But that’s not all: the authorities force us not to stand near the stadium, but to go inside. We will not be seen there at all! Equally well you can go to the forest or to your dacha and organize a rally in support of the REP trade union there.

Now the activists of the trade union are going to collect signatures under a collective appeal to the Babruisk authorities with a proposal to change the place for picketing. But the union did not wait for the officials’ permission to take to the streets and talk to Babruisk residents, telling them about the "trade union case", political prisoner Ihar Komlik and the freedom of assembly, which is violated in Belarus everywhere:

– Every day, so long as it was warm, we worked in the streets: we talked to people, distributed newspapers with the article "Freedom to Komlik!" We did not stand with posters – it would be an unequivocal picket. I'm not afraid to be arrested – I went through this in the spring already, during the "parasite protests". I just do not want to replenish the budget in this way.

Halina Smirnova prefers to work with people step by step, first informing them what the freedom of assembly is, and only then offering to sign the collective appeal:

– We pre-interviewed people. We made them ready before we collected signatures for changing the place of holding rallies and pickets. We asked people a question: do you know that expressing one's opinion is an inalienable right? But according to the Belarusian laws, the authorities decide on where and how you will express it. And people did not know about it at all! We must talk about the freedom of assembly to let people think: why should I pay the authorities for the right to express my own