July 17, 2006

Riot police arrest dozens at unauthorised protests

RUSSIAN riot police broke up banned anti-G8 protests yesterday and detained dozens of activists in central Saint Petersburg on the sidelines of the G8 summit.

“There are eight of them and 6bn of us! We must decide, not them!” said Olga Miryasova, an organiser of one of the demonstrations.

She said 37 activists including several foreign nationals were detained outside a hotel in central Saint Petersburg where around 50 activists gathered to protest the G8 summit taking place outside the northern Russian city.

The foreigners included citizens of Belarus, Britain, Germany, Poland, Ukraine and the US, Miryasova said.

At another small rally on the city’s fabled Nevsky Prospect avenue, Philip Kostenko and a dozen other protesters held up banners protesting against the Group of Eight summit and the conflict in Chechnya.

“We’re protesting against imperialism,” said Kostenko, a 21-year-old student with ruffled ginger hair and glasses, who held up a banner reading “Death to Fascism!” while others chanted “Freedom to the People - Death to Empires!”

The group was put into a waiting police van afterwards and taken away, an AFP reporter saw. A police captain speaking on a mobile phone was heard saying: “They’re in our control. They’re on the list.”

A police spokesman contacted by AFP declined to specify how many arrests had been made but said authorities would provide a figure by the end of the day.
Russian authorities have imposed strict security controls in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second biggest city, for the duration of the summit and gave formal authorisation only for a single protest event outside the centre.

Anti-G8 groups and political opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin have reported several hundred arrests, preventive detentions and police summonses in the days leading up to the summit.

“We’re not afraid!” said Pyotr Raush, a veteran of Saint Petersburg’s anarchist movement, before being bundled away by police at the Nevsky Prospect rally.
A passer-by, Nikolai, said he could not see the point of anti-G8 protests.
“Are the G8 doing anything bad? I don’t think so,” said the 70-year-old city resident.

After the police cars left, tourists and fashionably-dressed locals resumed strolling past Nevsky Prospect’s boutiques and patisseries. Leaflets calling for an end to imperialism scattered in the wind.


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