A lot of Russians think the recent elections were rigged. December 10 was designated Protest Day and people made plans to turn out. There was just one problem: government authorities were determined not to allow any protesting.
People protested anyway. Noise-making, including chanting and singing, was illegal so people walked around with tape over their mouths in silence.
Protest signs were illegal so displays of protesting toys holding signs were set up in the snow. Authorities in Barnaul carefully photographed the tiny signs and announced that before putting toys out, the snow had to be rented from the city. Apparently not understanding how foolish they appeared, police said: “Political opposition forces are using new technologies to carry out public events – using toys with placards at mini-protests. In our opinion, this is still an unsanctioned public event.”
Ah, new technologies! Like blue buckets. In Moscow, where privileged drivers can put a blue light atop their cars and ignore traffic laws, a protestor put a blue bucket on his head and ran over a police car. (Amazing video!) Then the Blue Bucket Society put buckets on their car roofs and paraded through the city. Legislation requiring blue bucketed cars to be registered has been introduced in the Duma.
Many protests are conceived as art projects. The art collective Voina (= “War”) stages various events that have earned them beatings and stays in jail. Still they persevere. Last June they painted a penis on the Liteiny drawbridge in St. Petersburg. When the bridge was raised, an erect penis faced the headquarters of the FSB — secret police successor to the KGB. The work was titled “Dick Arrested by FSB” and, surprisingly, the Ministry of Culture decided that it was worthy of an award. Voina refuses to accept any award from the government, though, and has turned it down.
Meanwhile, an exasperated Putin has declared that the protests are all a plot engineered by Hilary Clinton. Other government officials blame Senator John McCain. Confusion over these protests was exposed in Kaliningrad when a pro-government nationalist group went out for a jog to demonstrate a healthy lifestyle. They were carrying the black and yellow Kalinn flag and the police mistook them for a Gay Pride event — illegal in Kaliningrad — and busted them.
Making the police and the authorities that control the police look silly is the point, of course, but as Occupy protestors have discovered, this can be dangerous. Cops don’t think billy clubs and pepper spray are ridiculous; force is what they are all about and, once Putin is safely ensconced as President in March, they will likely use it.