They came, they argued, they shot..

The court verdict on Alexey Navalny’s case (five years imprisonment) became the top news not only for Russian but also for the world media yesterday while pro-Navalny protests took place in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Around 500 people (by the account of the City Police) came to Malaya Sadovaya Street in order to protest.

For those who kept an eye on the court process versus Alexey Navarny the verdict was no surprise. The only question was whether he was going to get jail sentence or probation. And the yesterday’s answer was pretty clear: he’s going to prison.

An oppositionist who’s become famous for his motto: “One for all and all for one!” and his project “RosPil” (an anti-corruption movement) is now facing his future five years in prison.

Yesterday at around 6 p.m. people who didn’t agree with court’s judgment began to arrive at Malaya Sadovaya Street. There were no party flags, no party emblems at all. Just normal citizens. Those who received a nickname “angry citizens” in December 2011. However this time they looked more lost than angry.

- I participate here as a caring volunteer, - says Feodor who’s giving out “Pro-Navalny” newspapers which are printed on black-and-white printer. – Nobody is going to set up any claims today here. This is just a people’s gathering. However I would’ve set up a claim. I’d propose to sit here and not leave until Navalny is free again.

People’s gathering though was actively proclaiming the slogans so popular by the protest movement of that famous winter of 2011: “Russia shall be free!”, “Russia without Putin!”, “Putin, ski to Magadan!” In fact it wasn’t a people’s gathering but a protest uncoordinated with the city administration that’s why policemen used their hailers from time to time in order to remind the protesters that their meeting is illegal and they all are supposed to leave. After that the police took the most active protesters to their prison trucks.

Forty participants were arrested. The crowd replied to this by clapping hands, making loud screams and shouting a motto: “Police is with the people! Don’t serve to morons!”

-They’re like asking for it themselves. Why are they screaming mottos? – a young man says standing near the crowd and looking at the next participant being carried to a truck.

-Well, they have emotions, right, - his friend replies. – They can’t just come here and stand silently, can they?

Meanwhile the other citizens were watching this scene from their windows. They aren’t “angry” and they probably don’t know who Navalny is and why Putin must ski to Magadan. They weren’t watching it for long, fifteen minutes at best. Later they probably just got bored. However we should show some respect to the police: the protesters were given more than an hour to rustle in Malaya Sadovaya.

- I am here to do something so my conscience doesn’t hurt later. There is such condition called “learned helplessness” – it’s when you understand that you can’t help anyhow, - Anton Govorin, a psychologist says. – That’s why I have to come here and show that I do care even in such way which may be useless or stupid. My acquaintances have been in trouble when they came to Venice and were out of money and they were homeless. So they’re sitting under the bridge and suddenly their daughter stands up and goes to a river to wash her socks. She was just trying to change the situation. It’s the same thing here. Maybe Navalny is a bad man and a State Department’s agent but even if it’s true… As Noam Chomsky said: “If we don’t deserve freedom for the worst of us, then we all do not deserve freedom”.

Many people came to Malaya Sadovaya with small children. They probably wanted to underline how peaceful that gathering was. There were very few posters and creative ads. That’s why it really felt that people had just come there in order to say: “we don’t agree with the verdict” and they didn’t even hope to change anything.

I believe there is a meaning to come here because it shows that we can’t find out that there is no fair court and just live with it, - Alexandra Krylenkova, the head of “Saint Petersburg poll monitors” movement. – The court has shown us all it could so now there is no reason for debating on whether Navalny is going to jail or he’s just getting probation as it was during the previous month. Of course, such gatherings will have zero effect on the authorities but maybe they will have some effect on ourselves, maybe they’ll make us do something and change our lives for the better.

However pessimistic views prevailed in the crowd.

- Why are there so few people? Why not 500 thousand?

-Come on! I saw so many people who really don’t give a damn! That’s what our country is about – we can’t gather together.

- Yeah, we can’t do it like in Turkey…

An hour later people started leaving the meeting. Some of them went to the cafes in this very street and started to discuss the latest news about Alexey Navalny.

- Yes, we are at the meeting, - a young man says on the phone, - Yes, we came, all right. We stood there, shouted a bit and shot a few pics…

This phrase probably describes the whole meeting at Malaya Sadovaya. People came, shouted and went away.

500 residents of St. Petersburg came out to the street and declared that they believe the verdict was unjust. However nobody heard them, even the old ladies who were looking at Malaya Sadovaya from their condos’ windows.

Magadan is a city in the Russian Far East where the most significant number of Gulag prisoners were sent during the Stalin’s repressions


by Maria Kalmikova

translated by Daniil Suprunchuk


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