Belarusian government prepared a draft of a new statue on mass gatherings in one place – no matter what is the goal of such event, they will be deemed illegal. This is authorities‘ response to the series of silent protests initiated by the „Revolution through social networks“, during which participants expressed their dissatisfaction with the regime solely by their presence and clapping hands.
The new law submitted by the cabinet to the Belarusian parliament establishes that every gathering in a public place, including streets, organized through the Internet, social networks etc, at a specific time, in order to demonstrate social and political views, will be treated as a rally. It will be illegal to gather in order „to act or to not act, in a pre-planned manner“ in public places.
The draft law expands means that police can use to tackle such protest. Blocking the place of mass actions, taking photos and recording the participants, ordering to disperse will be legal.
Hary Pahaniayla, a Belarusian political scientist, thinks that such changes to the law were unavoidable. „Belarus is a police state. The law here is not created for citizens, but to revoke all freedoms and liberties. They did not know how to sentence participants of the silent protests, there was a legal loophole, so they decided to close it by changing the laws.“ – he commented.
Despite the lack of the proper legal founding, police have managed to persecute the participants of silent protests, who since June 8th have been coming every Wednesday evening to main squares and streets of Belarusian cities and towns. Since the beginning of the action, undercover policemen have arrested nearly 2000 people, who have been than sentenced for “minor rowdiness”. According to the new law, even an Internet call-out for people to gather in public places and remain silent is illegal.