Authorities ban Freedom Day rally in downtown Minsk

The Minsk City Executive Committee has denied permission for a rally to be held at the center of Minsk on March 24 on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the proclamation of the independence of the Belarusian National Republic (BNR).

“Today we were finally denied permission for holding a 2019 Freedom Day rally at all suitable venues,” the organizing committee for the event says in a statement. “We, the organizers, tried until the last moment to ensure that Belarusians would be able to properly celebrate the 101st BNR independence anniversary with a large-scale mass event, as was the case last year. But six-month talks and attempts to reach a compromise did not help.”

On March 4, opposition activists filed an application for permission for a procession in downtown Minsk and a rally near the Palace of Sports or in Liberty Square on March 24 after the city government had banned a Freedom Day rally from being held at the Dynama Stadium on that date.

On March 1, Mr. Lukashenka pointed out that the organizers would not be allowed to hold the event at the recently modernized stadium and suggested that they use Peoples’ Friendship Park near Bangalore Square as the venue.

The organizing committee says that it has rejected the proposal to hold the rally in the park or other places on the outskirts because the BNR independence anniversary should be marked as a national holiday and is worthy of being celebrated with a rally at the center of the city.

According to the organizers, some 50,000 people attended last year’s Freedom Day rally held outside the National Grand Opera and Ballet Theater by the city government’s permission, with the crowd reaching over 11,000 at peak times.