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Ukraine: Bloggers React to Police Demolition of Tax Protest Camp

For over two weeks, thousands of Ukrainian small and middle business owners have been protesting (ENG) against the new tax code. The largest protests took place in Kyiv, where demonstrators set up a tent city.

Early on Friday morning, some 250 policemen, including riot police, appeared on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) to back up municipal maintenance workers who came to dismantle (ENG) the encampment (photos are here). According to official sources, the action was based on Kyiv district court’s ban on protests and Kyiv City Administration’s decision to install a Christmas tree (UKR) on Maidan.

The demolition (video is here) of the tent city immediately drew attention of the Ukrainian blogosphere.

Many bloggers were angry with the authorities and saw their actions as undemocratic.

@Alibobaevich writes (#kat_ua):

Влада втомилась гратись в демократію! Міліція знесла містечко мітингувальників на Майдані.

The government got tired of playing democracy! Police removed protesters’ city on Maidan.

Svyatoslav Vakarchuk @s_vakarchuk writes (UKR):

На Майданi встановлють новорiчну ялинку на рештках демократii, i цементують людською байдужiстю ……

On Maidan, they are putting up a Christmas tree on the remains of democracy and are cementing it with human indifference…

Commenting on both the removal of the tent city and the blockage of central Kyiv by traffic police, Oleh Shynkarenko (LJ user singing_foot), writes (UKR):

В Україні встановлено поліцейську диктатуру.

A police dictatorship has been established in Ukraine.

Journalist Mustafa Nayem, who has eyewitnessed the event, writes (RUS) on his blog:

Палаточный городок сносили тихо и мирно. Правда с привлечением совершенно неадекватного количества милиции, Беркута и “работников ШЕД”. Кому-то в МВД в эту ночь явно хотелось поиграться в “войнушки”. Последний раз такое количество людей в форме и “мирно гулящих в гражданском” видел в центре Тбилиси во время грузинской войны 2008 года.

The tent city was removed quietly and peacefully, although with the use of a completely inadequate number of police, riot police and [maintenance workers]. Apparently someone at the Interior Ministry really wanted to play [war games]. The last time I saw such a number of people in uniform and “plainclothes people walking around peacefully” was in the center of Tbilisi during the Georgian war of 2008.

LJ user gvyntokryl comments (RUS, UKR) on such actions with irony:

Наші доблєстниє міліціонєри не побоялісь-такі і дємонтіровалі наметове містечко на Майдані Незалежності..

Our valiant policemen were not afraid and actually dismantled the tent city on Maidan Nezalezhnosti…

Kyiv-based LJ user vintovkin also questions the behavior of the authorities (UKR):

Останні Майдани весь час розганяють годині о 5-тій. […] Невже менти бояться вдень? Їх же й так разів в 10 було, ніж тих мітингувальників.

They've been breaking up all the latest Maidans [protests] around 5 am. [...] Are the police really afraid to [do it] during the day? There were at least ten times as many of them as the protesters anyway.

Yet, some bloggers see things in a positive light. Among them is quickstep007, a LJ user from Kyiv region. She writes (RUS):

Майдан – победа ли это?
Считаю, что – таки да, победа. Люди показали, что они не будут бессловесным электоратом, который кушает все, что подсунут. Нужно помнить уроки истории. И делать выводы.

Maidan – is it a victory?
Yes, I believe so. People have shown that they won’t be just the mute electorate that “eats” whatever is given to it. History’s lessons must be remembered. And conclusions [must be] drawn.

Another Kyiv-based blogger, LJ user iozhikov, believes (UKR) that the removal of the tent city by force adds to the moral victory of the protesters:

[…] масовий протест невідомо чи буде тривати (скоріше ні, бо мають підключитися нові групи суспільства, а вони не підключаються). Що робити організаторам, щоб не втратити лице? І тут цей розгін містечка якраз вчасний. Він морально каталізує протест, який уже почав затухати.

[…] it is unclear whether the mass protest would have continued or not (most likely, no, because other groups of society would have to join in, and they haven't). What should the organizers do in order not to lose face? And here this break-up of the tent camp comes right on time. It morally catalyzes the protest that has already started to die out.

In response to the authorities’ plan to urgently install a Christmas tree on Maidan, some bloggers have suggested ways to demonstrate disapproval. Singing_foot writes (UKR):

Починаємо акцію “Я не йду на ялинку від Януковича!”

Let’s start an action “I won’t visit Yanukovych’ [Ukrainian President] Christmas tree!”

Yaroslav Vedmid (@vedmid) jokingly suggests (UKR):

кажуть, таки треба ставити йолку протесту…

they say, after all, a protest [not Christmas] tree has to be put up…

In reaction to the events some NGOs have denounced (UKR) the authorities’ actions and installed an improvised sign (UKR) on Maidan that read: “Democracy has been dismantled here.” Then everyone was invited to put flowers next to it.

In the evening, a popular message on Ukrainian Twitter (#kat_ua) read:

На Майдан несуть квіти.

Flowers are being brought to Maidan.

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