Friday, November 29, 2019

The Real Consequence of Shiyes -- Protesters No Longer Intimidated by Threat of Jail Time

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 25 – Just as some people can be influenced by a single tweet while others cannot be by a much larger political campaign, so too some can be intimidated by the threat of facing criminal sanctions while others, convinced that they are right and have no choice but to act despite that possibility won’t be.

            One people lose their fear of that kind of punishment, the balance of power between the people and the authorities changes with the latter forced to come up with ever more draconian punishments or alternatively forced to make concessions of kinds they never thought they would have to.

            That is the lesson of the fight for union rights in many countries, for civil rights in the American South, and for freedom in authoritarian countries.  It is why Pope John Paul’s words in Poland, “Be not afraid,” played such an enormous role in mobilizing the people there and across the Soviet bloc against communism and Soviet oppression.

            Now, once again, this is happening in Shiyes – and that is likely to be a far more important consequence of the anti-trash demonstrations there than the way in which Russians in other parts of that country are taking up the cause of opposing becoming places for the dumping of Moscow’s garbage.

            Andrey Borovikov, one of the original organizers of the Shiyes protests, has been sentenced to community service for his actions and now faces the possibility that he will be sent to prison because he has continued to violate the government’s regulation.  But that threat is no longer paralyzing him as it might have earlier (

                Borovikov and his supporters say that “whatever new sentence is handed down on the activist, neither force, nor fines, nor administrative and criminal cases by the authorities will be able to stop the residents of the North from struggling against the construction of the trash dump,” the Sever-Real portal reports.

            “If I said that I am not afraid [of jail time],” he told Radio Liberty earlier, “I would be lying. Naturally, I am afraid. But at the same time, I recognize that if not me, who? The problem of our people, the Russian people and not just Russians but all residents as a whole because we are a multi-national country is that we all wait for someone to come and decide things.” 

            “That’s why I decided and I will not wait for anyone anymore, that I will decide. And so too have many of our activists. Consequently, if I am condemned to jail for that idea, I am ready,” Borovikov says.  Sever-Real confirms that many other participants in the Shiyes protests have reached the same conclusion.

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