What people talked about on the most crowded protest action of the city.
On Sunday, April 14, the feeding of pigeons in the central square of Brest ended with a mass rally and march of more than 500 people.
At the same time, the authorities tried to neutralize protests against the battery plant; they arrested ten most active protestors on Friday. However, the march of April 14th became the most crowded street action after "parasite protests" of 2017.
How did it come that the authorities' actions had a reverse effect?
The BNC representative in Brest, activist of European Belarus civil campaign, Andrei Sharenda, told Charter97.org about the situation in the city upon Bug.
- Tell us about your impressions of Sunday's events in Brest. Why did the authorities fail?
- Such things inspire: people show that primitive and dirty intimidation tactics do not work. Friday's detentions aimed to disrupt the protest wave, but the process was out of control of the authorities. It had the reverse effect: people were even more enthusiastic about taking to the streets.
Participants of the march felt that the truth was on their side, were ready to express solidarity and did not let detain participants.
As a result, I can say that protests are taking the next level in Brest.
- Let's compare the protest of April 14 with "marches of non-parasites" in Brest. What is the difference between them? What things in common have they?
- Yes, many people noticed that Sunday's march had become the most crowded street action after "parasite protests" of 2017. But there are significant changes: this time people have been even more cheerful and decisive than in 2017.
If two years ago the economic situation was the one which made people take to the streets, and slogans aimed mainly against Decree No. 1, now people do not accept this power in any its aspect.
The battery plant has just become the last nail in the coffin which made people take to the streets. Brest citizens and their families joined the latest rally. The march represented a social image of the city: people of all ages, professions, mothers with children, old and young people... For most of them, it was the first street action in their lives.
I can say that mainly political slogans were voiced in conversations there. For the majority of people, the situation in the country is a mess. Brest citizens are worried not only about problems of the battery plant and problems of their home city. Frankly speaking, I had a feeling that Lukashenka did not control the situation anymore and it would be like this: Brest may trigger protests in Minsk and all over the country.
– What were the most popular slogans there?
- The main slogan voiced in different manners: "Lukashenka, take away your plant and disappear from Belarus together with it!" It's clear that this is a leitmotif. It was expressed by many people in different words, but one thing was common: everyone realized that the matter was in the power itself, not in a particular plant.
The authorities are ready to pay for dirty money from harmful enterprises with the health of people. The situation is the same in Svetlahorsk and in many industrial cities of Belarus. People are no more looking for guilty among local officials, everyone knows that the vicious scheme has been launched by the dictator from Drazdy; he appoints local officials and invites dubious "investors" ready to raise money at the expense of ordinary citizens.
- The resident of your city, Aliaksandr Abliak, told Brest citizens about the demolition of crosses in Kurapaty. What do Brest citizens think about it?
- Of course, my fellow countrymen are outraged by the vandalism of the authorities when the Great Lent is held and the Holy Week begins for Catholics and Orthodox Christians.
Everybody sees that creatures who ordered to demolish crosses on the eve of Easter stay in charge. Many Brest citizens went to defend Kurapaty; they visited the national memorial at least once in their lives.
– How do you assess people’s sentiments in Brest? Have there any changes been recently?
- The situation is as follows: people are tired of this power. They cannot stand promises of salaries of "one thousand rubles" which are shown on TV. In Brest, only people in power earn so much, and the others only get angry about this topic.
The constant lawlessness of the police, who beat people in the streets, plant explosives as it happened to activist Moses Mazko, is also annoying.
The situation with the battery plant has only exposed this popular indignation. And there is much more than just dissatisfaction with the harmful production. People are seeking an answer: what should we do? And they get the answer: to protest in the streets, as in Brest. After all, the authorities were actually defeated on Sunday: they wanted to suppress us, but they only had a public wrath.
I guess protests will continue in other cities as well. And they will even gain strength.
During the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine such a fact was popular: at night the authorities brutally dispersed a group of students near the monument - the next day they faced angry citizens in the streets. You know, something of this kind happened in Brest on April 14. It's possible that Brest may trigger emancipation of Belarus.
When people witness injustice, they are ready to rise up, even if it involves risk. On Sunday there were a lot of people who joined the rally just because 10 activists had been arrested on Friday.
- On social networks, the feedback of Belarusians on the rally in Brest was emotional: "Brest focus", "Belarus be proud!", "Brest citizens, you're heroes" - these are some of feedbacks. What do you think about it?
- I think that people are ready to follow the example of Brest citizens. I guess that Belarusians are waiting for the flame from the "Brest focus" to reach other cities.
Like those Ukrainian students who went to protest against Yanukovych to follow the European path, Brest citizens should become a catalyst for changes for the entire Belarus.
I'd like to appeal to residents of other regions: do not tolerate violence of the government, do not stand the lawlessness of Lukashenka's officials, but start defending your rights. Defend them on the streets of your cities and we will have a new, decent life.
- "The feeding of pigeons" has been going on for over a year and has become a record-breaking campaign. Why can't the authorities do anything about people's protests?
- Ordinary people participate in rallies. As I said, it's the social image of our city. This is the voice and will of the people. People take to the streets answering the call of their hearts. It is simply beyond control of the authorities to stop it. They are vulnerable to natural processes.
All their attempts to extinguish our flame turn into fuel.
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