In Russia, even raising your hands in public can get you detained these days, as protesters in Moscow discovered over the weekend.
Police in the capital detained a group of demonstrators near the Kremlin on April 6, several of whom were holding up what they called “invisible placards” calling for the release of seven demonstrators sentenced to prison in the Bolotanaya protest case in February.
After some of the protesters holding actual signs were hauled off by police, one of six demonstrators holding her arms up explained to the small crowd on Manezhnaya Square that police could not detain them because their placards were invisible.
It was the latest in a number of protests by Kremlin opponents who have turned to borderline absurdist demonstrations seemingly to dare authorities to arrest them for innocuous and legal public activities.
One prominent practitioner of this tactic is opposition activist Roman Dobrokhotov. He was detained
along with fellow demonstrators in January 2009 while holding up a blank piece of paper with his mouth taped shut outside the Russian government’s headquarters in central Moscow.
In August of that year, Dobrokhotov was detained with his guitar at a protest on Moscow’s Mayakovsky Square while playing and singing “Yellow Submarine”
by The Beatles, despite his claim that he had come to the demonstration only to play music.
The “invisible placards” tactic did little to assuage police, who dragged the demonstrators away.
In total, 10 protesters were detained on suspicion of staging an unsanctioned demonstration and released later that night, Ekho Moskvy reported. Other Russian news reports put the number of detainees at 12.
-- Carl Schreck