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Evgeniya Chirikova: They will reckon with you only if they sense in you a threat to their power [Facebook]

posted 22 May 2017, 07:19 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 May 2017, 07:32 ]
13 May 2017

By Evgenia Chirikova, public figure, environmental activist, winner of the Moscow Helsinki Group prize for defending human rights 

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Facebook

Photo: Moscow Helsinki Group

The decision not to invite politicians to the 14 May demonstration against razing housing in Moscow was wrong, in my opinion, because it reduced the tension, and that’s bad.

Of course, I understand the organizers, who are very worried that politicians will come and start promoting themselves. Ten years ago, I myself was like that. I considered myself above “those political topics” and was afraid of losing my political virginity. Even now, I don’t want you to repeat mistakes already made. Don’t go stepping on rakes, please. Listen to my arguments and think again.

Don’t reject opposition politicians, don’t lower the degree of protest, and don’t turn into toothless pushovers. That’s not appreciated here. Show the authorities your strength and determination to throw them to the dogs if they dare not to listen to you. They will reckon with you only if they sense in you a threat to their power.

Seven years ago, in 2010, when we were organizing a demonstration on Pushkin Square in defense of the Khimki forest, we had an analogous fear. At the time, we were able to organize the first major demonstration in Moscow in a decade. We gave the Kremlin a good scare, and the next day President Medvedev halted the chopping down of the forest. Halted but did not stop it altogether. Why? I don’t think we pinned them down at the time. We were very afraid of becoming politicized.

The demonstration was organized by the entire organizing committee, which amicably decided that there was no place for politicians on our tribune. It was all right for Shevchuk to speak, but we couldn’t give Nemtsov the floor. It’s only now that everyone has so suddenly come to love the dead Nemtsov; alive, he irritated many. Nemtsov paid for the stage and sound out of his own pocket, but he still wasn’t allowed to speak because he was a “politician.” Boris looked on this with considerable calm and dignity, although of course he was hurt and offended.

Now, seven years later, I understand that that was a foolish and shameful decision. Why?

Because a Russian opposition politician has tremendous, years-long experience of standing up to the authorities, and this experience should be put to good use.

Maybe if we had listened to Nemtsov more in 2010, we wouldn’t have believed the false promises of Dimon [Dmitry Medvedev], who was president at the time. Maybe we would have been tougher and achieved more—not only the cancelation of infrastructure construction in the forest but also a change in the highway’s route.

It’s crazy that in Russia a politician only has the right to speak out if he’s pro-regime. If he’s an oppositionist, he can keep his trap shut. An opposition politician is like a leper who can be killed, crippled, and imprisoned with impunity. But as for letting him speak at a demonstration—oh no! What if he taints our topic!

If you think that by not letting politicians speak you’re avoiding politicization—that is a huge mistake. In Russia, any topic, including Pokemon Go, is political.

If you think that politicians are going to “hijack” or “sully” your topic, they can’t do that if you, as the wise Katya Shulman advises, keep your own interest in mind.

It’s unwise not to let worthy people speak. The presence of politicians raises the temperature of the protest and shows the determination of those gathered. In Putin’s Russia, protestors are reckoned with only if they are capable of demonstrating strength and determination.

Navalny’s presence would unquestionably have raised that temperature and added the strength and determination so necessary to the protest. To say nothing of the fact that Aleksei has marvelous media opportunities worth taking advantage of.

And the last and most obvious thing. The more public people you invite, the stronger you'll be. Because each of them is backed up by his own audience and his own media resources.

Don’t weaken yourselves. Don’t refuse help from anyone. Don’t drive away worthy people. Be strong and wise!

See also, in Russian: Is there censorship in the 'Muscovites Against Razing' group?

Translated by Marian Schwartz