50,000: Massive Moscow protest against election fraud
Just two weeks after the Russian capital saw its biggest opposition rally in nearly twenty years, Russians unhappy with the results of the December 4 parliamentary elections are gathering once again.
But this time, it’s in even bigger numbers, with the hopes that their collective voice will be heard. They are coming together to protest against vote fraud – and to demand a new ballot.
This time around, the rally will be held on Akademika Sakharova Boulevard, with nearby streets closed off to traffic. Police have refrained from calling in reinforcements from the Defense Ministry, but will maintain a presence at the rally; metal detectors and barriers have been set in advance.
The protest’s organizers have managed to collect around 100,000 US dollars, which they say is more than enough to provide necessities like a stage from which speakers will address the crowds, as well as lighting and sound equipment. Taking into account the time of year, and the current weather conditions, organizers will also spend some of the donations on basic comforts for the protesters – hot drinks, snacks and restrooms.
Earlier, some pro-government youth organizations requested that the Prosecutor General’s office look into the opposition rally’s sources of funding. The organizers, who raised money through public donations, welcomed potential check-ups and said they’d happily cooperate with any investigation.
Thirty people are scheduled to speak, including actors, journalists, musicians, politicians and businessmen. But recent polls show that most of the people who will attend the rally aren’t interested in being addressed by the politicos and opposition party leaders – they are coming to hear public figures and social activists like TV anchor Leonid Parfenov and blogger Aleksey Navalny.
Navalny, an activist known for exposing serious corruption in Russia, was released from prison on Friday after having been detained at an unsanctioned rally in Moscow on the day after the elections. He was sentenced to 15 days behind bars for resisting arrest.
Among the tens of thousands of people expected to come to Central Moscow are a contingent from Russia’s far-right nationalist movements. This gave some of the organizers cause for concern, as they feared the nationalists could initiate clashes within the crowd. However, one of the movement’s leaders said all they want is a peaceful protest and a turn on the stage – granted to them by the event’s organizers, whose main goal is keeping the rally peaceful.
Moscow’s previous rally, held on December 10th, was noted for its peaceful organization by everyone from protesters to law enforcement officers. Out of the thousands that attended, just one person was detained – and was handed over to the authorities by the protesters themselves, who noticed him trying to provoke the crowd.
This Saturday’s rally is expected to be the largest event of the day. Moscow authorities have sanctioned the event, with up to 50,000 people authorized to attend. Organizers, however, expect many more – with over 60,000 people already signed up through various social networks. And Moscow isn’t the only city protesting – over a hundred more, both in Russia and abroad, will hold similar rallies.