May Day not for everyone: arrests of participants of trade union demonstration in Minsk

More than 20 activists of the civil campaign “European Belarus” were detained near the National library in Minsk, where the official trade union celebrated May Day. Among the detained are Zmitser Barodka, Yauhen Afnahel, Andrei Babitski, the Young Front leaders Zmitser Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich, Zmitser Khvedaruk, and chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada) Mikola Statkevich.

More than 100 activists of the civil campaign “European Belarus” came to the National library on 1 May and unfurled dozens of European flags at the official demonstration. 1 May is marked officially in Belarus as Labour Day. This date has important meaning both for Europe and Belarus: four years ago ten new states joined the European Union and the EU borders extended to our country.

But as soon as EU flags appeared among the red-green ones at the official demonstration, riot militia officers run up to oppositionists. Riot militiamen snatched EU flags away, broke flagpoles, took away blue cloths with stars. Besides, riot militiamen hindered work of photo correspondents: beat cameras, pushed journalists away and used foul language.

Mikola Statkevich, one of the leaders of the “European Belarus” campaign, addressed the participants of official demonstration through a megaphone. “We stand for free, European and democratic Belarus. Belarus must be free and join the family of the European peoples. Long live European Belarus!” Mikola Statkevich shouted. After that he was caught by riot militiamen, pinned his arms to his sides and pushed into a militia bus.

Opposition activist Maxim Serhiets was cracked his head during the detention.

After the mass detention at the trade union demonstration a “European Belarus” activist noted to the Charter’97 press center: “Lukashenka is always complaining that he repeatedly invited the opposition to attend official holidays. The demonstration and concert has been advertised for two weeks. We have come, and what is the result? We were encircled by riot militiamen, they snatched and tore flags, arrested people.”

“Why does Lukashenka like European money so much and doesn’t like European flags?” a young oppositionists wondered, when riot militiamen were snatching a European flag from her hands.

Photo by Radio Svaboda