One of the questions I had when Russia's new protest law went into effect was how would opposition-minded citizens respond.
In the months prior to the legislation's passage, the opposition had been showing remarkable creativity
to find loopholes in existing law
-- holding "walks," setting up "encampments," and holding "festivals" instead of formal "demonstrations" or "marches."
But as soon as President Vladimir Putin signed the new restrictive bill into law, participants in those actions too could be fined -- if the authorities determined that they were political protests.
Was a new wave of Belarus-style actions, with people simultaneously clapping or setting off their mobile-phone alarms at specific times in public places, in the offing? Would toy protests
make a comeback
Well, a man named Rostislav Zhuravlyov from Yekaterinburg has provided one answer: compliance to the point of absurdity.
"I would like to inform you of my intention to organize a onetime mass event on June 24, 2012, in which people will walk through public places in Yekaterinburg in order to view the city's attractions and meet with friends," Zhuravlyov wrote in a letter to city authorities that was received on June 9.
Rostislav Zhuravlyov's letter to the authorities
Zhuravlyov's march, the officially worded letter informed the authorities, would begin at his apartment (Ulitsa Belinskovo 143) at 9 a.m. and finish at the Grinvich shopping center at 12:30 p.m.
"In order to ensure safety for the participants of this mass onetime event and movement of people, I ask for a police escort," he wrote.
To Zhuravlyov's surprise, the police called him at 8 a.m. on the morning of June 24 to inform him that they would meet him outside his apartment building at the appointed time.
He met the police alone, went on his walk through the city with an escort, videotaped the highlights, and posted it on LiveJournal
WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:
"My friends, the law on demonstrations is working well. The police have met me. I'm impressed. I'm honestly impressed," he said.
The police appeared a bit befuddled, but went along.
Zhuravlyov's little stunt is now making the rounds on the Russian Internet (it has over 100,000 views on YouTube), and has attracted the attention of anticorruption blogger and opposition figure Aleksei Navalny (you can read his post on it in Russian
here and in English
"This is a good idea," Navalny wrote. "We need to maintain public order in Moscow, too. Why don't we have a couple of hundred similar authorized marches for cigarettes or ice cream, as well as officially sanctioned meetings while queuing at the bank?"
This could get interesting, not to mention amusing.
(h/t to @PicoBee
for flagging this on Twitter)
-- Brian Whitmore