Staunton, August 17 – It is sometimes said that dictators can survive anything except when the people they rule begin to laugh at them. If that is true, the Putin regime is in big trouble. The anti-trash protesters at Shiyes have lost their fear of the powers that be, view the actions of the authorities as more than a little absurd and are starting to laugh at them.
Even more, they are transforming their protest into a kind of permanent carnival and even urging the police to take off their badges and come over to the side of the people, telling them that their parents would be ashamed of their being with the powers and their children will suffer from the actions of the state they are mistakenly defending.
Novaya gazeta journalist Tatyana Britskaya says people at Shiyes “have already won: they have ceased to be afraid” as the authorities haven’t come down hard all at once but responded to each action of the protesters in ways that suggest to the latter they have the whip hand (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2019/08/17/81643-chelovek-derevo-protiv-omona).
Although the demonstrations in Moscow have overshadowed the protests in the Russian North, the latter protests have continued without interruption; and those taking part in them are convinced that their presence, not the supposed need of the construction companies to get environmental clearance, is why no new building activity is taking place.
One of the regular participants in the protests is a man dressed like a tree, who explains in an entertaining way to the children among the demonstrators why it is necessary to grow trees rather than build dumps and who is not shy about challenging the siloviki who sometimes appear in a threatening manner.
Other protesters, some of whom have already been subject to administrative detention, are not phased by threats from the police that they could face criminal charges if they don’t do what they are told. But the protesters increasingly know their rights, have among them some who have successfully won in court, and aren’t intimidated with fear as earlier.
One protester, whom Britskaya identifies as “a local philosopher,” says “one need not fear them. Our fear makes them stronger. And contrarywise, if we don’t fear them, they become weaker. This is a war not for life but to the death because our enemy wants to kill everything living here,” everything “which gives us life.”
Symbolic of the new attitude of the protesters, one that should frighten the powers that be in Moscow more than anything else is this. After the demonstrators were told they couldn’t have a concert because that would be “an unsanctioned meeting,” they simply organized a gathering, perhaps one could call it a happening and stayed together.
And they sang not the Marseillaise but something even more pointed as far as the Kremlin is concerned: “Villains die,” the Shiyes protesters sang out; “children are born.”