Video: Police crack down on opposition demonstration in Minsk

Police cracked down on a demonstration that opposition activists attempted to stage in Minsk on March 25 to mark 90 years since the establishment of the Belarusian National Republic, beating up and arresting dozens activists.

People holding white-red-white umbrellas and flags started converging on the square at 6 p.m., but the venue had already been sealed off by policemen. The demonstrators were told by police to walk to the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences some 500 meters away.

A few hundred people attempted to march in the opposite direction, along Independence Avenue to the monument to Yanka Kupala not far away from Victory Square, but riot police blocked the street and forced most of them away from the square.

Those few hundred that managed to push their way through the police cordons and continued their march toward Victory Square were forced out of the major avenue to quieter streets, where some were beaten up and bundled into police vehicles.

Four prison vans and two buses were said to be crammed with arrested demonstrators.

A crowd of some 3,000 assembled at the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences, where a short rally took place.

The gathering heard speeches by Lyavon Barshchewski, chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), and BPF Deputy Chairman Vintsuk Vyachorka. As the crowd waved white-red-white flags and chanted “Freedom to political prisoners!,” police officers warned through loudspeakers that the venue was the demonstration’s assembly place and no speeches were allowed there. They ordered the crowd to start moving toward Bangalore Square.

However, the demonstrators opted to disperse rather than walk to Bangalore Square. Some 300 people, mostly members of the Malady Front opposition youth group, attempted to march toward the National Library but were confronted by a heavy police presence at the intersection between Independence Avenue and Surhanava Street and scattered.

In an interview with BelaPAN, BPF Deputy Chairman Viktar Ivashkevich said, “The Belarusians declared their right to an independent state 90 years ago.” “They declared that this state should be democratic, free, European. Today we have an independent state, but it is not democratic and not free. We are struggling to have the ideals of the Belarusian National Republic put into practice in full,” he said.