5 March 2021, Friday, 13:32
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"They Said That the Police Went Over to the Side of the Protesters in Brest and Some Districts of Minsk"

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"They Said That the Police Went Over to the Side of the Protesters in Brest and Some Districts of Minsk"
Ihar Fiodarau

How a mechanic from Baranavichy mobilized his native plant for the revolution.

Ihar Fiodarau, a mechanical engineer from Baranavichy, admits that he had a negative attitude towards the current government for a long time but did not go out to protests until the presidential elections in August 2020.

In an interview with Salidarnasts, he recalls how, in the evening of August 9, they with a friend arrived at the square in their hometown. According to his estimates, several hundred people gathered there.

- People chanted: "Long live Belarus!" My friend and I drove in circles, turned on Tsoi's "Changes." Then we went home, and when the results of the preliminary voting were announced, I returned to the square - there were about a thousand people. They shouted: "The police are with the people!"

At that time, it seemed to me - I am a romantic by nature - that everything would change immediately after the elections. There was no internet. Someone said that the police went over to the side of the protesters in Brest and in some districts of Minsk.

I was in the square before the dispersal; I saw how they shoot at people and threw flash-noise grenades directly into the crowd. When a grenade exploded four meters away from me, I was shocked.

The man next to me was hit in the stomach by a rubber bullet. A grenade exploded under the feet of another - he lost consciousness. Ambulances came and took the victims.

According to Ihar, the protests in the city center had died down by August 12 - they were dispersed by the police.

- Looking at how events developed at large enterprises in the country, I thought that something should be done at our plant, - says Ihar Fiodarau, who until recently worked as a mechanical engineer at 558 Aviation Repair Plant OJSC. - I saw the mood of the team: everyone was against what was happening.

Maybe someone voted for Lukashenka, but there weren't many of them. Many believed the elections were rigged. My colleagues were stunned by what was happening in Minsk and here.

I saw with my own eyes how a bus stopped at a bus stop in Baranavichy; AMAP jumped out from there and began to bludgeon people. Some of the security officials ran to the other side of the road and beat passers-by. And it was early evening!

On August 14, the workers of the plant took the first action against violence.

- It was during lunch. About 70 people gathered behind the checkpoint, - Ihar recalls. - We made a list of requirements that we wanted to convey to the director at the concert on the occasion of Aviation Day.

Then we changed their minds: we decided to edit our requirements over the weekend and talk with the shop committees (the structure of the trade union - note "C") in order to organize meetings of labor collectives. On Monday, we talked to the trade union committee. We were told: this is not allowed.

Ihar gathered a team of the most active people in the plant's divisions, they drew up a list of requirements and began collecting signatures.

- We have collected about 400 signatures. Among our demands were: an end to violence, new elections, the resignation of the President, the head of the CEC, and the minister of internal affairs.

Many did not agree with the President's resignation, which was the first item. Verbally, everyone favors President's resignation, but not everyone is ready to express their opinion openly.

Our company repairs equipment all over the world, and business trips are very well paid, many were afraid to lose them and were not ready to part with a well-paid job.

At a meeting with the director, the plant workers handed him an appeal and asked him to transfer the requirements to the city executive committee and the State military-industrial committee.

- The director refused to send an appeal, said: this is not the team's opinion, but only 400 people. He added that in our country, according to the law, collective appeals are not considered.

I asked the question: "So, what should we do? Write 400 separate letters? "He said: well, yes, do it.

The plant workers went out to rallies against violence every day (from 14 to August 20) during the lunch break.

To support them, residents gathered - 400-500 people - on the opposite side of the road at the local bus stop.

- On Thursday, August 20, they drove the road equipment, which hummed so loud that it was not heard people shouting the slogans. They started working when our lunch started.

The police arrived, filmed. They warned that the event was not sanctioned: "if you don't disperse, you will be held accountable."

The next day I was told that they would draw up protocols for everyone who was filmed. I suggested in our group in the vibe: since you can't go out and clap at lunch, let's do exercises during the break.

When Ihar was going to exercise, he was stopped at the checkpoint by police officers, and a protocol was drawn up against him. In total, 21 people were convicted under Article 23.34.

On August 21 at 9:15 am, a representative of the plant's administration called me and said that the head of the city executive committee was ready to meet with us in an hour and a half. I was asked to choose ten people out of twenty who took part in negotiations with the director for water, prepare a list of questions, and go.

I went to the principal to reschedule this meeting until Monday so that we can prepare for it. I suggested that the head of the executive committee comes to us, since we have a city-forming enterprise. The director said: you wanted to meet with the city leadership - I made an agreement, but you are now refusing. The meeting with the "mayor" did not take place.

- Everyone was given fines, only one of my colleagues was imprisoned for two days, although she is a single mother and, by law, she cannot be arrested.

Since August 24, Ihar Fiodarau has been on vacation. His access to the plant was blocked.

He posted a letter with the collected signatures to the group in Viber - the very one that the plant director refused to hand over to the local authorities. The "heading" was changed in the letter: it was addressed to the head of the executive committee.

- I suggested to my colleagues: if someone does not agree, contact us, we will remove the signature. If you want to join the appeal - write.

A few days after Ihar Fiodarau sent a letter to the city executive committee, the police came to the enterprise.

- It turned out that the enterprise's administration appealed to the prosecutor's office to give a legal assessment of our letter. The prosecutor's office let the police come to us. The siloviki worked at the plant for about two weeks, interviewing everyone who signed the appeal.

At the same time, the plant's management was working to withdraw signatures so that people would refuse signatures. Let me give you an example: the person who collected signatures with me eventually refused it.

In the meantime, Ihar was summoned to Brest in the GUBOPiK and the Baranavichy police station.

- I received a letter stating that a criminal case against me was denied. My actions were qualified under Art. 23.39 Administrative Code (arbitrariness).

They explained that I had no right to represent the interests of the collective, I had to personally notify all those who signed the appeal that the letter would go to the executive committee. The court fined three basic units.

The Baranavichy executive committee sent a response, which was read out to the labor collective. The bottom line is this: the elections have passed, everything is fine, cases of violence are being considered.

After the vacation, I went to work. At the meeting, the director announced that no one at the plant has yet been fired for expressing a civil position and will not be fired.

Two hours after this meeting, I was called to the HR department and served with a notice that my contract, which ends in a month, will not be renewed.

During this month, Ihar was imprisoned for a day because he honored the memory of the deceased Raman Bandarenka.

- I invited my colleagues to get together at the checkpoint. There were eight of us. We lit candles along the road, took out portraits.

A minute and a half later, police officers came to us. They said that the event was not authorized.

We said: "What is unauthorized? The man was killed. We came to honor the memory of him and all who died after the elections. W e were told that the memory could only be honored in the church, so go there.

A paddy wagon was called to us. Nobody wanted to go there. Everyone immediately went to the plant and went to their departments.

Half an hour later, the boss came to me and said that I had to appear at the entrance by order of the director. I left my phone and told my colleagues: "If I don't come back, you know where I am - in a pre-trial detention center or an IVS."

And so it happened. Ihar and his colleagues spent the weekend in the isolation ward. On Monday, the courts were held: everyone was fined, Ihar was sentenced to 7 days.

- Since December 1, I am unemployed. The road to state enterprises is closed to me. In Baranavichy, I think, for sure.

Ihar's application was approved by the BYSOL foundation, created to provide assistance and support to those who lost their jobs for political reasons.

- I'm ready to retrain," says Ihar. - I would like to try myself in logistics. I sent my resume to the company. But so far, unsuccessfully - they take people with experience.

Ihar Fiodarau does not regret his activity after the elections.

- I am thrilled to do what I think is right and to fight for everything in our country to be like in civilized states - according to the law. I want to live in a country where a citizen's voice has weight and where people are not persecuted for expressing their position.