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(en) Russia, Farewell to arms! - Deserter day festival in Moscow 20th - 23rd of February 2005

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 12 Mar 2005 14:06:11 +0100 (CET)


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Festival was organised by Moscow group of Autonomous Action, Food Not Bombs
and Indyvideo. Main demands of the festival were "no to war in Chechnya!"
and "No to new limitations of deferment and exemption from military service!"
So, the festival got organised. Half of the program went upside down, whatever
I saw around was something like moves of the Makhnovist headquarters during the
civil war - through storms, chekist agents and random bands of whites. Clubs,
cafes, gallerias, a map of Moscow on the table, electric trains, telephones...
somewhere Bashkirians having a meeting against police terror, communists - for
USSR, liberals - for something or against something, Putin running somewhere with
flowers... for Chechenyans and Ingushetians - 61st anniversary of the deportations.

Not to forget Rainbow Keepers, people from Association of Anarchist Movements,
Federation of Revolutionary Anarchists, "unaligned anarchists" of course,
human rights activists, musicians, artists, guests from other countries. 8
planned days was cut short to be 4 - 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd of February.

Festival was launched with discussion on theme "anarchist and other
alternatives to army and conscription". Anarchist answer to Chamberlains
in liquidation of the state, and a regular army with it. A liberal
with an orange scarf made a rhetorical question "to
whom shirt belongs - to producer, bourgeoisie or to buyer?". In anarchism,
question makes no sense: when people are armed, there will no be bourgeoisie
and there will be enough shirts for everybody. That will be a society of
general distribution of shirts. Soldiers back home! Let generals dig trenches!

Two anti-war punk hardcore concerts were organised - 20th of February
(Echo is Your Love from Helsinki, Svinokop from Saint-Petersburg,
Potom budet pozdno from Saint-Petersburg, 777 Bakunina from Moscow,
Crowd Control from Saint-Petersburg and In Reflection from
Moscow), and 21st of February with support from Anti-war club in
R-club (Echo is Your Love, Svinokop, Potom budet pozdno, Argument
5.45 from Moscow and Loa Loa from Moscow).
Groups began their concerts with speeches against war hysteria, fascism
and nationalism.
Audience answered, diving and slamming the anti-militarist way.
Anti-war banners and pictures of destroyed Grozniy were hanged
to the walls. Anarchist, anti-war and anti-fascist
literature and music was distributed. In the streets,
boneheads were running, anti-fascists after them... Moscow
nights as usual. Concert of 24th of February was screwd up,
and in 27th of February Gulyay-Pole fell under strikes of chekists.

Main action was a non-legalised march against war in Chechnya and against
new limitations of deferment and exemption from military service. It went
according to all rules of the genre, in the day of official celebrations
(of day of Defender of the Fatherland) in the centre of Moscow, and was
finished with spectacular arrests.
1 PM at old arbat, next to McDonald's, participators of "Food not Bombs" brought
vegetarian food and began distributing it to everyone in a need (among whom
many anarchists, who were hanging in the Arbat trying to look as random
passers by).
Police appeared and attempted to stop the event, but nobody paid attention
since there should not be anything political in distribution of food. Police
called support forces, which raised their fighting spirits, after
which people were forced to split into small groups and disperse
to small streets nearby. Unfortunately coppers did not dispersed,
but continued their evil ways in the streets, harrassing any odd
phenomena in the streets, such as people walking with rolled
banners, punks visiting McD toilets and journalists.

2 PM groups reunited not far from crossing of New Arbat and Sadovaya ringroad,
they rised anarchists flag and unrolled banners "Death to state and capitalism",
"Army is a school of slavery", "No to war in Chechnya", "No to abolition of
of deferment and exemption from military service" and marched by New Arbat
towards centre. Demonstrators scanned "Soldiers back home, Putin to Chechnya!",
"War against war!", "No to police state", "No to abolition of deferment!".
When march turned to Gogol boulevard and passed by Army headquarters, people
shouted "We wish a quick meeting with Hattab to all HQ!" (Hattab was influential
Chechen resistance leader, ambushed by his own few years ago). There was enough
chaos - more than half of the poles did not fit the flags, part of the people
was lost before the conspirative start, some came late - all in all it was
some 65 people. On the way, passers by were given free tabloid "deserter",
made by Moscow anarchists.

On the middle way march was granted a police escort. Once a while they demanded
demonstration to disperse, but not with too much effort - apparently they hoped
that it will leave to territory of the next station, liberating them from obligation
of making decisions on their own, which gives an opportunity to have some booze to
celebrate the state holiday. One of the coppers shouted to his radio "They have no
leaders! I repeat - they have no leaders!". That was the most happiest line of the
festival, but it is unlikely that its author could fully understand
the whole meaning.
This anonymous Arbat copper announced, that it was a model of non-hierarchical
anarchist society passing by him, belief to which is alone a heresy for him.

Demonstration passed by consulate of Turkmenistan, scanning "Down with Turkmenbashi",
and soon hit the Old Arbat. Around 2:30 PM police tried to stop march by force,
but they did not had nightsticks and thus they had only pretty limited success at
first. So they decided to fight with symbols, grabbing people with flags and
transparents. In the middle of the Old Arbat, march was first splitted to two
parts, and eventually both had to disperse.
7 participators, one journalist, group of Ren-TV, big banner, flag and one drum
were arrested. All of these were took to Arbat police station. Banner, flag and drum
were separated from the rest, whom police tried to scare. Since threats did not had much
effect, police had it on the presidential way, and they began flushing people down
from the toilet. Cops attempted to wash head of one of the anarchists in
the toilet, but since he was not up for a shower, they had to mangle his
face instead.

Presence of journalists limited chances to further experiments. Support group
of some 20 people was staying at the police station, and eventually around half past
6 everyone was released. Again everybody gathered, video screening which was
interfed by FSB the day before was finally done, people almost did not
booze...

There were also a number of other events, for example lecture on anarchist movement
in USA as a part of the weekly anarchist lecture series "Bespartshkola", support for already
mentioned picket of victims of OMON mop-up operation in city of Blagoveschensk of
Bashkiria, a discussion on non-violent means of protests after a lecture of a
guest from War Resisters International, many forms of unformal chatting... much of
the program was cancelled, but general mood after event is only positive.

And although Gulyay-Pole lasted only 4 days, free anarchist territory
was there for at least a while. We will ride again! Farewell to army!
Peaceful sky for you, Caucasus!

(edited from account of Akbar, written for Avtonom #24)

Post Scriptum: Indeed, everybody were surprised for amount of interest that both
FSB and nazis gave to festival. Attempts to stop the event by latter group
were expecially sorry. Almost all events of the festival, beginning from the
Food Not Bombs of Sunday 20th, were visited by mobs of boneheads, but
not once they could bring more than 20 people. For sure self-defence
was not too succesfull either. Good opportunities were wasted, only 4
unimportant nazis were beaten during the events and their communication
networks confiscated.
But it is important to note that although Moscow nazi movement is still
strong, they are having their worst crisis ever. They totally lack
coordination and may not stop us even if they really try. From now on,
streets will be ours!


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