On Wednesday morning, several hundred people gathered in front of Minsk Tractor Plant (MTZ) to support the workers’ strike committee. As OMON riot police are also present at the factory gate, protesters had to recede a bit. At least two people have been detained.
“Strike! MTZ! Long live Belarus!” Minskers chanted.
The strike committee’s members who had been protesting for several days were supposed to meet at the entrance to the plant early in the morning to agree on a further plan of action. However, When reached by Polish Press Agency (PAP), their leader Syarhei Dyleuski said he did not go to the meeting in fear of being arrested, because OMON showed up there.
“They’ll probably want to detain us so that we could not encourage people to strike,” he said.
According to him, over the past days, the MTZ directorship was threatening workers with dismissals, demanding that they stop protesting.
Сітуацыя на МТЗ. pic.twitter.com/y65fjwD9KA
— Белсат TV (@Belsat_TV) August 19, 2020
“As a result, only 300 persons are ready to strike roday; there were 4,000 on Friday. To take part in Tuesday’s protest, people went on unpaid leave, but we have got information that today they are not allowed to enter the plant,” Dyleuski said.
In his opinion, people are afraid of losing their jobs and other unpleasant consequences of striking. The activists are deliberating over their next steps, he added.
A dozen workers of Minsk Motor Plant came to support their colleagues from MTZ; they were holding the banner ‘Solidarity’. As they said, they are also protesting ‘at their own expense’, i.e. being on unpaid leave. According to protesters, there were more participants early in the morning
“Unfortunately, our people have got a new reflex: when they see the police, they run away,” a woman said.
“Our workers want to protest, but they are afraid of losing their jobs,” another participant said.
OMON officers told PAP that they arrived at the plant to protect public order. When asked if there was any threat to public order, they explained that any mass gathering might become such threat. Later, the police started to disperse the protesters.
“I saw two persons being grabbed and dragged into police vans,” our journalist reported from the scene.