On January 10th individual entrepreneurs held a mass protest action in Minsk. The action was carried out within the framework of the nation-wide strike of January 1-15. Protest rallies were also held in Mahiliou, Barysau and other cities. Entrepreneurs protest against some regulations of president’s edict # 760. According to the edict, since January 1st entrepreneurs are not allowed to hire employees except for their family members. (11-JAN-08)
On the eve of the protest rally the police tried to preventively isolate the potential action participants. In the evening of January 9th the police detained civic activist Viachaslau Siuchyk. He was sentenced to 10 days of jail. In Rechytsa the police detained one of the rally organizers, entrepreneur Aleh Shabetnik. He was found guilty of using foul language and sentenced to 5 days of jail.
Impotence of the authorities before protest actions
In the morning of January 10th Alexander Tsetsura and Viktar Kryval, members of the campaign For Free Development of Entrepreneurship, were detained on their way to Minsk. Road police officers stopped them and told the entrepreneurs to follow them to the police station. The house of active entrepreneur Alexander Makayeu was literally in the state of siege. Besides that, for January 10th the authorities planned mass checks of the entrepreneurs’ working hours. The authorities claimed they would withdraw entrepreneurs’ licenses for a closed shop and absence of an assistant during the opening hours.
How it was
More than a thousand people gathered on Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk at noon. The authorities suggested that the entrepreneurs should send their representatives to participate in the negotiations with the President’s Office. The police warned the crowd that the rally was illegal. However, the action participants did not leave. The delegation headed by Anatol Shumchanka submitted their demands to a representative of the President’s Office. By that time, there were about 2,000 people on the Square. They held white-red-white flags and the flags of the For Freedom Movement and the United Civic Party. They chant: “Let us work!” Politicians Siarhei Kaliakin, Alexander Milinkevich, Ales Mikhalevich, and Mikola Statkevich came to support the entrepreneurs at the rally.
The riot police blocked all the ways to the building of the President’s Office, where the rally participants were heading. The crowd stopped on the roadway blocking the traffic on Independence Avenue and Engels Street .
“Sidorski, give us a job!”
Later the entrepreneurs made a decision to go to the House of Government and ask for a meeting with prime-minister Siarhei Sidorski. They wanted to discuss cancelation of edict # 760 with him. Over four thousand entrepreneurs went on the roadside of the Independence Avenue . The traffic was paralyzed. However, the riot police blocked the entries to the House of Government. About three thousand entrepreneurs went on the roadside on Independence Square (near the main building of Belarusian State University ) and blocked the traffic. They chant: “Work! Freedom!” Additional forces of the riot police arrive at the scene. The policemen are moving towards the rally participants from the House of the Government.
“Entrepreneurs’ march is their great victory”
By that time the prosecutor’s office instigated criminal proceedings about the fact of mass disorder on January 10th in Minsk. The riot police began to push the entrepreneurs out of the square. Mass arrests of the protesters began. According to human rights defenders, the police detained over 20 protest participants, many of them were beaten and maltreated. Negotiations between the leaders of the entrepreneurs and the authorities ended with no result. The entrepreneurs are going to continue the fight for their rights. The next rally will take place on January 21st.
“The march of the entrepreneurs is their great victory. For the first time Minsk and Mahiliou streets saw thousands of people, who, defending their economic interests, grew ready for political demands…”, deputy chair of BPF Vincuk Viacorka commented on mass protest of Belarusian entrepreneurs.