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(en) Radical ecological protest camp in Otradniy*, Russia - chronology of actions from 21th of September to 26th of August 2005

Date Fri, 23 Sep 2005 21:53:46 +0300


21st of July more than 200 people gathered in central square of Otradniy,
in a first major meeting of the camp. Both camp participators and local
people made speeches. Local people expressed distrust against local
authorities, who claim that Remetall-C does not break any regulations, and
told about poisonous clouds covering their neighborhood nighttime. Campers
had prepared a small guerilla theatre spectacle. Meeting prepared a
resolution to be sent to several authorities. From central square campers
and local people marched to camp site, where party went on.

25th of July was deadline, until which meeting 21st of July demanded legal
documents on operation of Remetall-C from administration of Otradniy,
prosecutor's office, Rospotrebnadzor (organ which controls fulfilling of
various ecological and sanitary norms in production) and Municipal
inspection Ekologiya. None of these organs fulfilled demand of the meeting
until deadline. They were asked to bring necessary materials

to be presented at picket at Solnechniy market square 3 PM, but since nobody
came, city dwellers and campers decided to went for the documents to office
of Rospotrebnadzor. People entered cabinet of government official
Ilyushkina, and refused to leave until necessary documents were given. Soon
Ilyushkina lost her nerves, and declared that an official reply will be made
during one month. Police was called, and protestors were expelled from the
building, but not without a resistance. Arrested were released the same day,
after misdemeanor cases about not fulfilling police orders were filed
against them. The following day, all of the arrested with exception of one
were sentenced to a fine of 500 rubles. City administration gave up to
demands of meeting of 21st of July, passing some documents relating to legal
status of the operation of Remetall-C.

1st of August activists organized action in capital of the region, Samara.
They blockaded office of TD Alkam, company which owns factory in which
Remetall-C operates in Otradniy. TD Alkam claims it does not have other
links to Remetall-C, but if you phone their office, they answer "Remetall".
A huge banner "Otradniy is suffocating, Remetall is getting rich" was hanged
outside building, office of TD Alkam (Remetall-C?) was blockaded in the
second floor of the building. Police arrived soon, they managed to steal
passport of one participator of the action, and kidnap another and lock him
to a barber's shop in the same floor. Due to pressure by lawyer Yuri Makeev,
police let kidnapped activist free and gave passports back. After few hours,
blockade was violently dispersed by police, nobody was arrested but two
persons had to write an "explanation" for police.

3rd of August a local FSB officers came visiting camp, investigating claim
of director of the factory Kuchaev, that campers have come to Otradniy as a
vanguard of an upcoming "orange revolution".

5th of August two guards of Solnechniy marketplace, where campers organize
daily information pickets, tried to kick picketers out. Activists resisted
attempt successfully, and they were supported by some visitors of the
marketplace.

8th of August another major meeting was organized in main square of
Otradniy. Already one hour before meeting, activists went hiding to roof of
an art school, a building most close to the city administration. More than
300 people joined meeting 4 PM. A banner was dropped from roof of the art
school, and sea torches were burned. Meeting moved to city administration,
in order to challenge officials. In order not to shorten discussions,
another activist climbed to roof of the entrance, dropped a banner and
burned two more sea torches. People were applausing and shouting. Campers
did not have to blockade entrance to administration, since cops did it
themselves.

Eventually, cops managed to make it to roof of the art school, and they
arrested one activist. She was successfully de-arrested by 20 locals.
Eventually some deputies came out from the city administration, declaring
that they have no legal basis to halt operation of Remetall-C. But people
were not willing to leave, meeting was finished but crowd remained without
flags and banners. Police demand crowd to disperse, but no-one wanted to
leave until having a guarantee, that administration was about to take
measures to solve problems with Remetall-C. At this point, police,
provocateurs and (supposed) FSB agents began arresting people, pulling them
to police vans. Local people and campers blocked road, and did not let
police to take arrested people to police station, but eventually police
managed to drive through blockade.

Crowd was angry, demanding freeing arrested people. One person chained
himself to entrance of the administration, in order to protest police
despotism. Soon police came back, this time arresting people arbitrarily -
press, free-lance photographers, local people and everybody with an outlook
they did not liked.

At this point, not too many people remained in the meeting. They decided to
split into two groups. First remained in the city administration, demanding
freeing of the arrested, second group went to police station. Arrested
people were given misdemeanor charges, and freed the same evening. Charges
were in court during the following two days, due to appeal of the activists
cases were passed to their domiciles. This propably means that charges will
expire, since it is unlikely that activists will be served summons in their
domiciles during a year.

10th of August there was another poisonous discharge from Remetall-C, one
camper fainted and others were coughing. Discharge was recorded to a
videotape.

26th of August protest camp was closed. In a press release, campers declared
formation of a Group for Public and Ecological Control in Otradniy as their
biggest success, group was a result of a round table discussion organized
between all parts of the conflict 16th of August. Only representatives of
Remetall-C refused to sign common resolution of the round table, since they
could not show conclusions of State ecological expertise, which should have
been done to plant in prior to opening it, and did not wanted to make an
expertise on ecological impact of the plant and a plan to decrease
discharges to levels demanded by regulations.

Last action of the camp was also organized 26th of August, three activists
climbed to pipe of the plant, and tried to cover it with a huge condom. Due
to strong wind, this did not worked out, so eventually condom was just
hanged as a banner. Radical ecologists announced, that "after having closed
the factory symbolically, we will close it concretely". After 7 hours up in
the pipe, activists came down and were arrested for two hours. They were
filed misdemeanor charges.

Yet it is too early to evaluate final impact and results of the protest
campaign. Some repressions are still going on, for example in Samara
officials attempt to frame a known human rights activist Lyudmila Gavrilovna
Kuzminoy for organizing the blockade of 1st of August, although in reality
she was present as a journalist, and has nothing whatsoever to with the
protest campaign.

Participation of local people was a bit less than it has been during some
protest camps of the past. This has also to do with the fact, that
ecological problems created by Remetall-C are quite local, mostly only
inhabitants of one particular area of the city are concerned. But Otradniy
is a small, provincial town and it is no doubt that campaign was the main
news of the summer. It was also an unusual situation, that although there
was a campaign in prior to launching of the camp, organised by local
activists who had invited anarchists there at the first place, it had not
been very noisy and much of the local population was totally unaware of the
problem when camp started. So this time protest camp was rather launching
the campaign, instead of its peak.

And as for number of participants go, it was the most successful protest
camp for years. People came from as far as Irkutsk of Siberia, Belarus and
Berlin. from a plenty of different groups such as Duplo of Samara, Rainbow
Keepers, Association of Anarchist Movements, FrontAIDS (organization to
defend HIV patients) and Autonomous Action, not to forget unaligned
activists. Biggest number of people at the camp was 50, and it could be more
than 100 people participated altogether.

In parallel with direct actions, a process of negotiations and meetings with
countless of various officials took place.. I have not included these to
chronology in order not to bore a reader. There is an ongoing discussion in
Russian radical scene on topic what should be inter-relation between
negotiations, (usually) symbolical direct action and legal campaigning.
Traditionally, protest camps have relied pretty much on legal arguments and
negotiations, this tactical choice if of course not by radical ecologists
only but pretty much how local activists tend to see their work.

At least in the past, this approach of multitude of tactics has often proven
itself to be a fruitful one. Russian laws and government practices are full
of contradictions, and most likely you may always find a statue with which
you may close any plant. So in the end, it is never a legal, but rather a
political question. But using laws, regulations and negotiations is
convenient, because they give authorities a chance to give up without
loosing their faces altogether. And often authorities are ready to
compromise after just a few months of trouble, because they are more afraid
of protests than in some other countries. We will see if this will be the
case in Otradniy as well.

Contact of the campaign:

ekolager@yandex.ru
www.otradny.indymedia.ru

As for pictures, you may visit website of the campaign, but unfortunately it
is only in Russian language. just try different links there, no pictures are
embedded to page itself in order to have it uploading more quickly. French
site has many pictures, here is pictures from meeting of 8th of August from
a forum of a local site in Otradniy:

http://www.otradny.net/forum/?board=20&topic=247&page=1

* (For first 18 days of the protest camp and background of the problem, read
http://www.ainfos.ca/en/ainfos16835.html
For information in French, visit http://endehors.org/news/7976.shtml)

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