Lukashenka’s riot police powerless against 10,000-strong women’s march | Photos

The women's march in Minsk gathered some 10,000 people, according to the Belarusian media tut.by 

International

On Saturday, 29 August, a 10,000-strong Women’s March was held in Minsk, the capital of Belarus where protests against rigged elections are into their third week. Similar marches were held in other Belarusian cities.

The protests calling on self-proclaimed president-elect Alyaksandr Lukashenka to resign and fresh elections to be held already had a feminine face. It was a women’s trio who stood up to “last dictator of Europe” Lukashenka; it was the housewife-turned-presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who became Lukashenka’s unexpected challenger; and it were solidarity chains of white-clad women proliferating in cities big and small that served as the perfect opposition to the strongman – and his brutal riot police.

Flowers stronger than guns as “Ladies in White” protests spread throughout Belarus

The women’s march was spectacular because violence against women, at least in public, is considered savage. Were the riot police to commit brutalities against the women, many of whom emphasize their femininity, it would delegitimize Lukashenka’s regime even further.

The march was opened by a legendary grandmother – the 73-year-old Nina Baginskaya, whose defiant brandishment of the banned white-red-white national Belarusian flag since 1988 earned her thousands of dollars in fines – and a special place in the hearts of protesters.

Bearing a new flag that she sewed herself (her old one was confiscated by the riot police a few days ago), her appearance in the middle of the avenue served as a signal for the others to start moving.

Nina Baginskaya leading the march. Photo: Nadzeia Buzhan/Nasha Niva

Nina Baginskaya’s appearance on the street was a signal for others to start marching. Photo: tut.by

Maria Kalesnikava, the only member of the women’s trio driving Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign remaining in Belarus and member of the presidium of the Coordination Council set up by the opposition to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power, also came to the protest:

Maria Kalesnikava addresses the march participants. Photo: Nadzeia Buzhan/Nasha Niva

Riot police attempted to break up the columns of women, but to no success.

Photo: RFE/RL

Photo: tut.by

Photo: tut.by

Photo: RFE/RL

Photo: Nadzeia Buzhan / Nasha Niva

Photo: Nadzeia Buzhan / Nasha Niva

Photo: tut.by

The women had even protected a journalist from being grabbed by the riot police!

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Nevertheless, the riot police did arrest protesters. According to the official information of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 29 people were arrested.

There were many creative signs at the march.

Recipe for a peaceful revolution: 1. Bring the authorities to a boiling point. 2. Saute on a slow fire till readiness. Photo: Nadzeia Buzhan, Nasha Niva

Women’s team of Belarus for freestyle wrestling with the regime. Photo: Nadzeia Buzhan, Nasha Niva

Sasha [Alyaksandr], sexism did you in. Lukashenka had made plenty of sexist remarks during his reign, including dismissing the potential of women to be politicians. Photo: RFE/RL

Photo: RFE/RL

March, baby! Photo: Nadzeia Buzhan, Nasha Niva

Belarusian journalist Franak Viacorka noted that the women gave a new breath to the protests, which keep on going despite blows from Lukashenka’s regime: arrests of strike leaders and regional activists, upcoming deportations of foreign journalists, hundreds of new detainees.

As well, he wrote that the women on the streets took the riot police by surprise:

“Women broke the pattern yesterday,” noted the independent outlet Nasha Niva:

“The siloviki [codename for various law enforcers propping up regimes in post-Soviet countries – Ed] were bewildered: they could not disperse or demoralize the participants of the peaceful march led by the legendary Nina Boginskaya.

The paddy wagons, barbed wire-vehicles, and water cannon sent against the Belarusian women looked hilarious. 

By blocking the women’s way to the center, the security forces provoked a multi-kilometer festive march through the city. The women seeped through the chains like water, circling, changing their route. They passed Independence Avenue, Khoruzhaya and Bahdanovich streets. They were followed by the paddy wagons with riot police – the women occupied the street and did not allow them to drive forward.”

Protests against what is certainly a rigged election in which Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed 80.1% of the votes started on 9 August and have continued ever since. On 26 August, the Supreme Court of Belarus turned down all claims of other candidates for the annulment of election results. Lukashenka’s contender Svitlana Tsikanouskaya left the country for Lithuania; a Coordination Council has been established by the opposition with the aim of peacefully transferring power. Thousands have been detained across the country amid reports of brutalities and torture committed by riot police.

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