Security Forces Use Pepper Gas, Stun Bullets As They Clash With Protesting Pensioners

Large crowds of pensioners marched through central Minsk on Monday, 12 October, to protest against the current policy of the state, the results of the election and violence against Belarusians. They also demand the release of all political prisoners.

The pensioners gathered at the Red Church and went for a walk along Independence Avenue. Grandmothers and grandfathers were singing “The Holy War” and chanting “We believe, we can, we will overcome!”. A farmer brought the protesters two boxes of flowers.

The procession stretched for several hundred meters, it was constantly followed by minibuses with unknown people in balaclavas inside. At some point, they detained Komsomolskaya Pravda photographer Svyatoslav Zorky and pensioners tried to fight him off but failed to do so.

When the bus with the detainee left, the pensioners threw flowers at them. Whether these actions will be regarded as violence against internal affairs officers is still unknown. The elderly protesters were supported by passing-by drivers and people waving flags from their windows.

Volunteers distributed water, hot tea and candies to the pensioners. One woman handed out pies to everyone. People with disabilities joined the procession in Yakub Kolas Square. When the pensioners reached the BNTU, they shouted: “Freedom to our children!”, “Let go!”.

The university guards closed the gates to prevent the students from leaving and joining the Pensioner’s March. At some point, security forces started to detain doctors who took to the streets to support the elderly. Witnesses reported explosions similar to flash-bangs or firecrackers.

Despite the use of special means, pensioners did not disperse, they chanted “Fascists!” and threw flowers at the cars of the security forces. Later they rushed to fight off presumably students with white-red-white flags, who were being detained by the unknown people in balaclavas.

After that, the unknown people used special means: shots were heard, bright flashes were seen, pensioners were sprayed with pepper gas. One of the video footages showed an unknown person in a balaclava shooting a march participant in the back.

As in the previous week, the pensioners laid flowers and posters at the Yakub Kolas monument and went home.