After residents of smaller cities unexpectedly took to the streets, protests are returning to the capital.
On March 15, Constitution Day, Belarusians will be marching from the Academy of Sciences to Bangalore Square, which is authorized by the city authorities. At the same time, the officials are trying to prevent students and workers from participating in the event, while independent mass media are likely to have difficulty livestreaming the march. Rallies will also be held in Mahiliou, Hrodna and Vitsebsk – other regional centers of the country.
Last time, Minsk residents were protesting the so-called ‘parasite’ law on February, 17. Although the march is approved, Minsk city executive committee warned its organizers.
“They warned us against walking along the roadway. They are not going to divert traffic although we insisted on it,” said Dzmitry Kuchuk, a representative of The Greens.
The authorities are also trying to have a sway over the youth. A list of students of Hrodna electrotechnical college who were forced to promise in writing not to participate in protests has gone viral on the Internet. Homiel students are threatened with expulsion for taking part in rallies as well.
“Our tutor told us that they had been ordered to keep students busy on the days of rallies,” a student of Homiel Univerisy named after Francysk Skaryna told Belsat.
In Minsk Polytechnic College, today’s morning classes have been rescheduled – they will take place during the time of the protest. The students were compelled to sign a written commitment not to participate in the rally. Two students – Mikalai Lohvinau and Mikita Krasnakutski – were detained during the exam for distributing leaflets about the protest.
It is rumored that the regime may block news websites.
“Such option as Private Window allows to bypass the blocking; or one can find and use anonymizers on the Internet. But the authorities may also cut off access to the Internet throughout the country – in this case, one doesn’t bring a knife to a gunfight,” says Internet technologies expert Mark Bernstein.
Reporters who will be livestreaming the rallies may also face problems. Belsat TV will do its best to convey up-to-the-minute and truthful information to viewers.
“One can watch live broadcasts of the protests in Minsk, Hrodna, Mahiliou on Belsat TV as well as on our website belsat.eu,” says Volha Shved, editor-in-chief of belsat.eu.
Decree Nr 3 signed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka in April, 2015 established the obligation of the citizens of Belarus, foreign citizens permanently residing in Belarus, stateless persons, who did not participate in the financing of public spending or participated in such financing less than 183 days (six months – ed.) in the past year, to pay a fee of 20 basic units (appr. $230).
The notorious decree caused a massive public outcry. In February-March, protests were held in a number of Belarusian cities and towns. On March 9, the implementation of the infamous ‘parasite’ law was put on the back burner.