This year’s Freedom Day rally on 25 March ended up with mass arrests. The protests continued the following day, when even more people were detained. BelarusFeed looked into foreign media to figure out what they think about ‘new Belarus crackdown’.
Outrage of 25 March in 2 minutes from above
“Authorities in Belarus have detained protesters as they attempted to hold a banned rally in the capital Minsk, amid rising public anger over falling living standards and an unpopular tax on the unemployed”, Al Jazeera reports on Saturday’s Freedom Day rally in Minsk.
The journalist contacted Belarusian political analyst Uladzimir Matskevich to explain the root of people’s anger and disappointment with the authorities. “Belarus has been in recession for the past two years, suffering the knock-on effects of an economic downturn in Russia and a sharp fall in oil prices <…> hardship has brought thousands to the streets, including former Lukashenko supporters”, the author says.
In the article Matskevich makes a point that these protests are unique for Belarus since “this protest wave has spread to small towns where unemployment is high and they are economically depressed”.
Besides well-known facts, in the article BBC tries to depict the atmosphere on the Freedom day in Minsk.
“It seemed like the whole city was in a state of emergency — police everywhere, a lot of police trucks, water cannons, cars with equipment for storming barricades. We heard that people who were unable to get to the first meeting place, the Science Academy metro station, gathered in another place – Yakub Kolas square. There we saw a crowd with white-red-white flags, which are a symbol of opposition in Belarus. The crowd was around 1,000-1,500 strong”, Sergey Kozlovsky, a journalist of BBC Russian Service, reports.
“People were on Saturday night reported to be still attempting to demonstrate in the capital, Minsk, as well as in Brest and Grodno, on what was the national Freedom Day. There were sporadic outbreaks of violence as masked police closed down key roads and charged at marchers to stop crowds forming”, the article says.
The author cites Natalia Kaliada, Founding Artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre, who spoke from Brussels, where she had been lobbying the EU to resume sanctions against the regime in Belarus that were lifted last year. “It’s a strategy of arrests and clearing the streets and blocking the internet that they think will spook people, but people are very angry. All these arrests and splitting up the crowds might make things a little quieter in Minsk, but now these protests are happening all over Belarus,” she said. “This is the worst crackdown over the last seven years, but it would have been the biggest protest. People don’t care, they want an end to this dictator. They say ‘basta’ – enough.”
The telegraph’s article convinces that the protests were caused by current political situation in Belarus rather than the economic problems.
“The protest is not about the economic situation but about a dictatorship that has lasted 23 years”, the author cites Andre Sanikov, former Belarusian foreign minister.
“If there is no resolution, I fear for the future of Belarus as a democratic country but I also fear it will become a hotbed and a dangerous spot in the region”, Andre Sanikov states in the article.
Dozens Detained Seeking Answers About Belarus Mass Arrests, The New York Times
The New York Times gave a short summary on the Freedom Day rally on 25 March.
“About 400 people were arrested on Saturday while participating in an unsanctioned protest against the authoritarian government of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has stifled dissent and independent media during his 23 years in power”, the newspaper reports.
Belarus had a large protest today. Is it the beginning of a movement, or the end? The Washington Post
The Washington Post’s article mostly focuses on the protest’s background rather than on what happened on 25 March. The author explained what has caused the actions and how the situation evolved over the past month.
“In its modern incarnation, the “law against social parasites” requires people who work less than 183 days a year to pay the government $250 annually. Lukashenko said the law is about fairness. But Belarusans saw something else: a government tax on top of a government failure to provide people jobs. And they got angry. Thousands took part in protests in the country’s regions. A couple thousand more gathered in the capital of Minsk. Unlike past protests, the demonstrations attracted a wide swath of people”, the correspondent writes.