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(en) Russia, Moscow cops fight for their right to take bribes - a report from Moscow marihuana march 4th of May

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 20 May 2004 08:46:41 +0200 (CEST)

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Due to draconian Russian drug laws imposed in mid-nineties, clearing minor
drug prosession charges in exchange to bribes has quickly become main source
of income for Russian police force, which in Moscow alone employ a huge army
of 150 000 persons (for comparaison, London police force is 40 000 strong,
that of New York 80 000). If grass was legalized, thousands of "man in grey"
would be forced to streets in order harrass Caucasian immigrants and other
people with a wrong skin colour in order to extract a slim bribe of 100
roubles (3 euros) for a lack of registration in Moscow - where an average
grass discovery (or planting) mean at least 30 times bigger bonus to family
budget. So if you plan to take action in Moscow for legalising it, expect no
love from those working hard to protect you from crime, terrorism and all
other awful things.

4th of May 2004 marihuana march 4may.by.ru in Moscow was a quite well
promoted event, even few celebs backing it. Due to this, and due to fact
that almost weekly actions during spring had exhausted local anarchists a
bit, anarchists maybe did not paid enough attention to event and did not
formed their own bloc. However, a good number of anarchists participated and
at least one got arrested.

No matter headway towards the mainstream, march was not given a permit.
However, around 3 PM in statue of B. Okudzhabe in Arbat around 150-250
people gathered, defying the ban. This is a big number in Moscow, maybe
biggest numbers in an illegal action since fall of the Soviet Union and
relative "liberalisation" of the demonstration permission policy 13 years

Particitors began drumming and distributing leaflets, coppers had a massive
presence already 45 minutes before began of the march. People decided to
march to end of the Gogol boulevard, turn around and march to Pushkin
square. In end of boulevard march route was blocked by a police "Gazel" van,
and few busloads of OMON appeared as from nowhere. People moved to
Prestichenskaya embakment, it turned out that it was intention of police to
turn march there - police managed to encircle march and arrest dozens of
people. Groups of nazi skinheads were also hanging around during the march,
but there were no reports of assaults, maybe nazis were held back due to
massive police presence. After encirclement, plain clothes snatch squads
were hunting any people with dreadlocks or similar wrong outlooks in
surrounding streets, one eyewitness testified a group of 3 jumping on a
unlucky person with a leaf t-shirt, grabbing him to a car in a split of
second, leaving nothing but broken sunglasses of the victim behind.

After encirclement, a group of 20-30 managed to regroup and made an ad-hoc
banner with a marker and sheet of cartoon. They marched boulevard backwards
and turned towards Pushkin square, soon a police car sticked to group a
banner was rolled, march continued without any banners. Pushkin square was
also discovered encircled, 3 busloads of OMON were eagerly waiting to
practice to hippies and rastamen some tricks learnt in Chechnya. Remaining
group preferred not not to engage to a conflict with such uneven odds, but
half of them got arrested anyway.

Some veterans of the Soviet "neformal" subculture who participated said that
totally Orwellian atmosphere of the event was a sort of flashback from rock
concerts of the mid-eighties. Those of arrested were accused of minor
misdemeanour charges of "participating to an illegal assembly". With
exception of snatch squads, people were not treaten too badly by police. One
copper carrying arrested to station said "after work, club and joint",
pretty well putting the day to its context.

translated and edited from postings in russia.indymedia.org

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