There was a nice write up in the Boston Globe (which continues to favor Boston College over the University of Massachusetts in its sports coverage-but that’s a story for another day) today on the state of dissent in Sochi, Russia for the Olympic Games today. As the article explains, “In a departure from the Soviet era, when the Communist Party could declare anyone who bucked the system an enemy of the state, the new Russia has all the trappings of democracy — elections, protections, the right to protest. But elections are suspect, protections are routinely ignored, laws are used to harass and detain people who try to speak up”.
Russian President Vladamir Putin, in a move to assuage the West about the state of Democracy in his country, recently rescinded an order dissallowing any protests at the Winter Games, and a park has been set up to house all demonstraters. The result? In a word, typical:
Tatyana Katanidi, who said she is involved in the permitting process, said the pro-Putin demonstrator was only the second person to use the legal protest area since the Games began. Katanidi said someone else had staged a solo protest, but she could not remember what he wanted. A third group applied but was turned down because it had too many people, she said, and no one else has asked permission.
A local human rights lawyer, Alexander Popkov, said he knew why: Several activists he defends, who might have staged rallies, are behind bars on what he called trumped-up charges. And that makes people worry that protest is not just futile; it’s dangerous.
Yes, a third demonstration was turned down because it had “too many people”. Because having a large number of people isn’t the entire point of protests, or anything. The rest of the people that might have protested? Yea, they’re all in jail. Great.