St. Petersburg authorities arrested dozens of anarchists and left-wing activists to prevent them from marching as part of the May Day demonstrations on Nevsky Prospekt on Sunday.
Spearheaded by St. Petersburg Governor and pro-Kremlin party United Russia member Valentina Matviyenko, a wide range of political parties and movements, trade unions and pressure groups took part in the demonstrations.
The main demands of the opposition in St. Petersburg were the dismissal of Matviyenko and the restoration of gubernatorial elections that were abolished by then-President Vladimir Putin in 2005.
More than 50 anarchists, including 14 minors, were approached by the police at the assembly point on Ligovsky Prospekt and arrested without any reason given, they say. Videos uploaded on anarchists’ web sites show them being dragged roughly into a police bus while trying to raise an anti-Nazi banner and shouting, “Down with the police state!”
The arrested activists were due to march as part of a column of leftist groups led by the Center for Workers’ Mutual Aid (TsVR), which had been authorized by City Hall. The other activists in the column refused to march until the anarchists were released, and remained at the gathering point, preventing columns of democrats and nationalists from moving forward for some time.
In a report on the TsVR Livejournal.com community, they said they stood on the spot for an hour and a half and left only when police threatened to disperse and arrest them.
According to Tatyana, an anarchist who did not wish her last name to appear in print, the arrested activists were charged with violating the regulations on holding public events and failing to obey police orders.
Later, seven more anarchists were arrested when they attempted to block the United Russia column — the largest group in the march, estimated by officials to number between 15,000 and 20,000 supporters — on Nevsky Prospekt. The police promptly dragged the anarchists away after they lay down on the ground and interlocked their arms. Later, two managed to escape from the police precinct they were taken to, while another two were sentenced to two and three days in prison, respectively.
Two years ago, more than 100 anarchists were arrested in a similar manner — despite having a permit from City Hall — before they started their May Day march, but last year they were allowed to march on Nevsky Prospekt. They moved down the street in a close group wrapped in banners, with their arms interlocked to counteract possible arrests.
Commenting on the arrests on 100 TV channel the same day, Matviyenko claimed that “every political party or group that was legal was allowed to march on Nevsky.”