Moscow -- 'I'm only walking', declared an inscribed placard carried by a middle-aged walker who had turned up at a protest rally. In actual fact it was difficult to distinguish who had gone for a walk , who was a sight-seeing tourist and who really just wanted to drop into the nearby Macdonald's restaurant within the vicinity of Pushkin Square. One of the most conspicuous aspects about this demonstration was the almost absence of handed-out leaflets, placards and posters. People eagerly searching for leaflets were handed an
advertisement for either a pizzza or a private school ! There were good reasons for not handing out leaflets or displaying posters. The demonstrators who were brandishing placards with slogans were among the first people to be sought
out for arrest.
At times, it was difficult to make out where the demonstration was taking place.
This was because many of the demonstrators were not sticking to one spot but walking up and down the main street. So it was really difficult to spot who was a tourist, who was shopping and who was attending the demonstration. A
passerby stopped and asked me : " Where is the demonstration ? "I directed him to Pushkin square as that was where the core of the protest was emerging.
One group of young men was trying to work out where best to leave a protest poster 'Where is Dimon?" They hastily positioned it on the window ledge of a cafe then went away giggling. They reminded me of naughty school children. Who knows? Maybe they belonged to the bad boys that always hang about the back of the class room. For them the demo might be part of an adventure !
One of the few strikingly displayed placards on display read :
ATTENTION ! MISSING PERSON !
MEDVEDEV DIMON (51 YEARS OLD)
HE WAS LAST DRESSED IN : CHECKERED SHIRT , JEANS AND TRAINERS
CHARACTERISTICS : LOVES TO INNOVATE , HOME-MADE WINE AND MAKE DUCK HOUSES. HE IS POSSIBLY ILL OR MAYBE NOT.
POSSIBLE LOCATION : COUNTRY ESTATE IN RUBLYVYI, NAMELY IN THE KURSKOI REGION , VINEYARD IN ALAPI , DACHA AT KRASNAYA POLYANYI, PALACE IN SAINT PETERSBURG OR VILLA IN ITALY.
ON THE 26th OF MARCH IN MANY CITIES IN RUSSIA WE ARE CONDUCTING A RESCUE SEARCH ! DON"T REMAIN INDIFFERENT!
WE NEED YOUR HELP !
I began to feel sorry for Medvedev. It was as if he was being picked on by bullies in a classroom. Rumours abounded that he was in deep depression and on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Where was Medvedev ? Well while many demostrators had 'gone for a walk', he told everyone - " I have gone fishing!"
Pushkin square was crammed with people . When Navalny emerged there was an eruption of cheers and a speech followed. I could not make it out.
It did not matter. My mind was on the helmeted riot police who had begun to seal off the entrances to the square and were moving in to make arrests.
The crack down was severe. From an estimated attendance of between 8000 to 10000 protesters, over a 1,000 people were detained. This was more than double the number of arrests on 6 May 2012 Bolotnoi square protests where more than 400 were detained. The first people to be targeted were
the youngest such as school children. They were a number of ugly scuffles where some were beaten up. So many people were arrested en mass it is entirely possible a Woody Allen scene may have emerged where an amazed arrested tourist claimed: "I only wanted to have a look at the statue of
On this day there was a news black out . One of the biggest protest rallies since 2012 got no news coverage. Instead , people were relying on social network news reports. When newspaper reports emerged they were often crassly idiotic . One report stated Navaly had paid school children to attend
the demonstration. Another false report claimed that a journalist for the Guardian had been shouting 'Anti-Putin ' slogans in English at the rally and did not know any Russian. This was all just lies! The journalist was simply doing his job taking photos of people being arrested and when he was detained spoke in fluent Russian that he had a permit from the Russian authorities to report.
Much is being made of the fact that many school children were attending the demonstrations. Some Journalists have even begun to label this as 'A children's crusade' in reference to a Medieval Children's crusade that ended in disaster.
This represents at best a gross overstatement. When I was there I noticed people of different ages drawn from varied backgrounds. Yet some school children appear to have been in conflict with their teachers at Tomsk. Some bitter students are complaining that if they express dissident opinions their
conservative teachers give them a '2' and fail them at exams. We have no way of verifying those allegations . What sickens students at some institutes and schools are warnings from officials "Not to attend protest demonstrations".
When some teachers tell their school students that 'Everything is great under Putin" and they see so many beggars in the streets and notice growing poverty then they resent being deceived.
You don't need any sophisticated sociological analysis to work out why more and more school students might protest. They are among the most oppressed sections of society. They are overtested, overworked and overstressed. Recent
research indicates that school students do more work than their parents. They not only study hard at school, do a lot of homework but often have private tuition lessons. I come across some students who are simultaneously learning English, German and Chinese. When I ask the students : " What do you do in your free time?" they answer: "I don't have free time" . End of discussion . I have to rephrase the question : "What would you do if you had free time ?" So children are adults before their prime time. The connection between the protests and over-studying is indicated by a current joke in circulation : " A schoolboy asks his friend ; "Are you coming to the demonstration?" The pupil answers " I'm sorry. I can't go as I have got Algebra!"
Indeed, people who are kept very busy don't have much time for protesting!