Protesting toys left out in cold by Siberian authorities

Authorities in the Siberian city of Barnaul have refused to sanction a dolls’ protest rally, claiming toys are not equal to people and so cannot participate.

Rights activists had planned to place 100 Kinder surprise toys, 100 Lego figures, 20 soldiers, 15 soft toys and 10 toy cars on the snow in Barnaul’s central square with tiny placards to protest against corruption, violations of election law and article 31 of the constitution which guarantees the freedom of assembly.

Organisers from the local GOLOS election watchdog department and Voters’ League rights activists called the authorities’ refusal absurd.

The activists have pledged to hold the protest action on 18 February anyway, but instead of a rally they plan to make it a series of single pickets, which, according to Russian law, do not have to be sanctioned.

Similar toy protests were held in Barnaul in January without any authorities’ sanctions and became successful among the public and foreign media [photos available here]. Their purpose was simple: authorities refused to sanction a traditional rally against allegedly fraudulent elections, and activists came up with a creative idea of toys protesting instead. Toys held placards saying “United Russia is united against Russia”, “I’m for clean elections”, “Send bears (the symbol of the Putin-led United Russia party – Index) to the North”. Barnaul Prosecutor’s office considered the toy rally “a public event which requires authorities’ sanction”.

Meanwhile protest activists in Moscow are trying to get human protest actions sanctioned. They planned a follow up to this month’s rallies against unfair elections on 26 February in the celebation Russian traditional holiday — Pancake week — with a slogan “Farewell to political winter”. It implies the burning of the winter effigy which is most likely to feature Putin’s face. Organisers are receiving controversial statements from Moscow city administration.  They are going to hold the action anyway; if no sanction is given, it will take the form of a flashmob.

After protesters see off the political winter, they plan to gather in Moscow’s Garden Ring Road and create an unbroken circle around the city centre holding hands. Protesters estimate this will require not less than 34,000 people. The purpose of the “Big White Circle”, as protesters call it, is to remind the authorities none of their demands were fulfilled.

The only people who do not have any problems organising rallies now are Putin’s supporters. Their rally is to be held on 23 February, and it is expected that Putin himself will attend. The last rally in his support was held the same day tens of thousands people protested against his run in presidential campaign, and was marked with scandalous reports of how people were threatened or paid for supporting him.