Last Saturday, while protests against the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin took place in Moscow, a lone 17-year-old girl sat cross-legged surrounded by Moscow’s riot police and defied the government and Putin by doing something extraordinarily courageous: reading aloud the Russian constitution, which states that Russians have the right to peaceful assemblies.
Olga Misik, 17, told the Meduza website, “I just wanted to remind them [the police] that we are here with peaceful purposes and without weapons, but they are not … It never even occurred to me that someone other than them would hear it … I sat on the ground and began to read out our constitutional rights, specifying that what is happening here [police arresting protestors] is illegal.”
The Independent noted, “The weekend’s demonstrations were ostensibly a protest against the banning of several leading opposition politicians from running in September’s Moscow City Duma elections. But they also called more widely for greater political freedoms and transparency in Russia, where elections are widely viewed to be rigged.”
Time magazine pointed out, “Protests are not new to Moscow. But the intensity with which these protests were met by Moscow police caught many political observers off guard … the stakes were low, as Moscow City Council elections have little impact on national, let alone international, politics. And yet the police responded as if these protests directly threatened the Russian state—this was the most arrests at a Russian protest in more than a decade.”
Misik, whose father reportedly supports Putin, continued, “Injustice always concerns everyone. Today the Moscow City Duma, tomorrow the governor of the region, a week later the head of the Resurrection District. It is only a matter of time. It is foolish to think that this is a rally only for free elections or the admission of candidates. This is a rally in defense of elementary constitutional rights that would not be questioned in a democratic state.”
The BBC reported of the protests, “Demonstrators were dragged away from the city’s parliamentary building as security forces used batons against the crowd, in what was one of the biggest crackdowns in Russia in years. Images from the protest showed several of the demonstrators bleeding, while at least two members of the security forces reportedly received eye injuries from pepper spray.” The BBC showed pictures of bloodied protesters.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reportedly said the protests were a “security threat.” An Investigative Committee stated, “The investigation has established that ahead of an unsanctioned rally a group of people repeatedly posted on the internet calls to take part in it, knowing full well that these actions could provoke mass unrest.”
Misik was reportedly arrested later when she headed to a subway station. 1,000 other people were arrested. She stated, “They did not introduce themselves, did not explain the reason and grounds for detention … There was not a rally or a crowd of people in this place. They grabbed my arms and legs and dragged me down the street and through the underpass … I screamed that they were hurting me, but they told me that they knew better.”
Misik will reportedly be charged with attending a public event which was held without filing a notice.