Freedom Day as the beginning of a protest spring
28 March 2021 | Voice of Belarus
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On 25 March, Belarusians celebrate Freedom Day. On this day in 1918, the independence of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BPR) was proclaimed. The official language of the BPR was Belarusian, the coat of arms was Pahonia, and the flag was white-red-white.
Freedom Day has a special meaning in 2021. The opposition hoped that it would start off the country’s protests against Lukashenko with renewed vigor. Opposition Telegram channels called people to come out to the center of the cities where they live, create courtyard flash mobs, as well as to launch fireworks. Drivers were asked to signal in a coordinated manner at a certain time.
The official authorities do not recognize this holiday and the events dedicated to it. And usually, its celebration is accompanied by mass arrests. An application to hold a rally was submitted to the Minsk City Executive Committee. But, as expected, the authorities banned the Freedom Day celebration, allegedly due to the coronavirus and “extremist appeals” spread on Telegram channels.
A couple of days before the rally, the police had conducted the searches and preventive detentions of activists throughout the country. The authorities, fearing any civic activity, have brought an unprecedented amount of military equipment into Minsk. As soon as people started to take it to the streets in the afternoon, swift detentions of anyone who could be seen began.
On 27 March, the first large protest action of 2021 was announced in Belarus. However, due to a heavy presence of the security forces, Belarusians failed to gather for the mass protest. In the morning, military equipment was pulled into the city: prisoner transport vehicles (PTVs), water cannons, military vehicles with barbed wire, “Rubezh” complexes [roll-out metal fences operated by a riot police vehicle and designed to stop street riots].
The security forces began to grab passers-by and cyclists as early as an hour before the start of the protest action. Among the detainees are six Belarusian journalists and a German journalist of Deutsche Welle. In total, over the two days of protests, 25 and 27 March, about 500 people were detained, including about 400 in Minsk.
On the eve of 25 March, an extensive persecution of activists of the Union of Poles in Belarus (UPB) campaign began in Belarus. Detentions of UPB leaders and searches in institutions that are related to this organization are carried out as part of a criminal case related to the inciting of ethnic hatred.