How Russia's cops and oppositionists are preparing for Saturday's nationwide protests
The Navalny campaign is planning nationwide protests on Saturday, October 7. The opposition politician’s supporters will demonstrate in 80 cities across the country, demanding “normal political competition” in Russia and that Navalny be allowed to run in next year's presidential race. Earlier in the week, Navalny was jailed for 20 days after being convicted of repeatedly violating Russia’s laws on public assemblies. Most of the protests scheduled for Saturday are unsanctioned. Meduza looks at how each side in this faceoff — police and oppositionists — are preparing for Saturday’s rallies.
What are the cops doing to get ready?
- They're detaining protest leaders. Navalny and his campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, have both been jailed for 20 days. After Navalny responded to his arrest by calling for nationwide protests, police started detaining other opposition figures. In Sochi, for instance, law enforcement detained Navalny’s local campaign head, Konstantin Zykov. He was taken to court in handcuffs on October 5.
- The authorities released Volkov for about four hours, before arresting him again. There’s something strange going on when it comes to the handling of Volkov’s case. On October 2, he was sentenced to 20 days in jail, just like Navalny. On October 5, however, he was suddenly released. Then, a few hours later, the police picked him up again, this time for promoting the October 7 unsanctioned protests.
- Police are raiding various Navalny campaign offices, seizing campaign literature. In St. Petersburg, officers sent the materials for expert analysis. In Perm, meanwhile, police took the materials without any explanation. At the time of this writing, officers were also raiding Navalny’s campaign office in Moscow.
- Local officials in most cities where Navalny supporters plan to protest are refusing to issue demonstration permits, sometimes on highly questionable legal grounds. In some regions, however, officials are issuing permits. It’s unclear what determines when Navalny’s supporters will actually get permission, but so far it’s happened in Barnaul, Biysk, Bratsk, and Veliky Novgorod.
- State officials have been very open about the fact that the police intend to respond to unsanctioned demonstrations with overwhelming force. A law enforcement source in St. Petersburg, where Navalny’s central rally on Saturday is planned, issued a special warning, speaking to the news agency Interfax.
- Police are getting their hands on extra buses in cities where rallies are expected. According to the news agency Fontanka, police in St. Petersburg have obtained enough buses to transport 800 people, possibly meant for detained protesters.
What are the protesters doing to get ready?
- Navalny’s team is trying to get city approval for pickets (where no sound amplification equipment is allowed), which requires just three days' advance notice. Applications for proper protests, on the other hand, must be submitted at least 10 days beforehand.
- Local community groups on the social network Vkontakte are calling people to Navalny’s rallies, whether or not local officials have issued demonstration permits.
- Navalny’s campaign is circulating templates for demonstration posters, which activists can print on their own and bring to rallies.
- Activists are also going offline and posting notices about the planned rallies around their cities. In St. Petersburg, for example, banners promoting the protest have appeared on advertising billboards.