A Russian MP has introduced a bill to the country’s parliament that would equate waiting to participate in a one-person protest with a full rally. The move would choke one of the few remaining ways to protests without a permit.
As things stand, under Russian law, a single-person picket is the only way to legally protest without the authorities’ express permission. As a way to get round the regulations, it is common to see long lines of people waiting for their turn to participate in a lone demonstration. If only one person is protesting at once, it is deemed legal. The proposed new legislation would see the queue itself classed as a rally.
“A solo picket should be just one person,” said Dmitry Vyatkin, an MP from the ruling United Russia party, who proposed the new legislation. “People go and replace each other. We understand perfectly well that it was not one person who came out. This is a mass action. It must be regulated from the point of view of a mass action.”
Last summer, Russian single pickets gained international attention, when long lines were seen waiting to protest against the arrest of Ivan Golunov, a journalist who was arrested on suspicion of a drug-related crime. In the center of the capital, hundreds of Muscovites waited in line for their short spell of legally allowed protest before someone else took their place. Golunov was later released.
The one-man picket protesting yesterday’s arrest of Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov is growing, despite multiple arrests of protestors earlier today. pic.twitter.com/acfKxb8fta
— Francesca Ebel (@FrancescaEbel) June 7, 2019
Vyatkin’s draft law would also prohibit protests from being held near the buildings of the emergency services, including the police and the fire department. In addition, rules would be tightened for journalists working at rallies. If passed, a journalist without professional identification would automatically be considered a participant. Furthermore, the proposal would ban foreign financing of protests.
“It’s no secret that foreign governments and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are allocating significant sums to maintain certain political activity in Russia. In fact, this is a form of gross interference in internal affairs,” Vyatkin told the Moscow daily Kommersant.
Earlier this year, Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said that single-person pickets do not constitute “mass events,” after journalist Ilya Azar was arrested for a solo protest outside Moscow Police’s headquarters.
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