December 19, the 2010 presidential election day in Belarus, ended in mass protests, arrests and violent clashes with the riot police in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has served as the President of Belarus since July 1994, ran against nine opposition candidates, some of whom are now reported to have been attacked or arrested – or both. Thousands of people gathered in the center of Minsk to protest electoral fraud after the polls closed (some photos and video are here), but as they tried to storm the government headquarters and the central election commission building, they were soon dispersed by riot police. Dozens of protesters and a number of journalists, including a reporter and a photographer for the New York Times, were injured.
Problems with the internet and limited access to social media and opposition websites in Minsk were being reported throughout the day, too (see earlier GV updates by Alexey Sidorenko – here, here, and here). Evgeny Morozov (@evgenymorozov), who is currently in Belarus, tweeted that he couldn't “access anything using https.” In another tweet, posted Sunday afternoon, he wrote:
I also hear that since access to Gmail in Belarus is blocked, opposition sites can't use their mailing lists
Still, citizen media reports were being filed before, during and after the events in the center of Minsk.
On Dec. 18, Dmitry Rastaev (LJ user rastaev) commented (RUS) on the supposedly voluntary “early voting” – in which “23% of the 7 million registered electors” had cast their votes, and which is often considered “an instrument of vote-rigging for authorities“:
Talked with my [student] daughter [via ICQ] today, she said this: “In the dormitory, they are coming into the rooms with the Eviction Act and write down [the names of] all those who didn't vote early on this piece of paper, putting “for [creating insanitary conditions]” as the reason.”
And in the meantime, [Lukashenko] and his clique are barking on the TV about “unacceptability of forcing [people] to vote early.”
If on the 19th, this [bastardly] regime does not collapse, I don't even know… [...] To tolerate this filth and these jerks for five more years – it is physically impossible by now!!!
LJ user adelka posted this report (BEL) after she returned from the rally:
We are home, alive and in one piece.
My husband, his brother and I carried out a woman covered in blood, [she had a head injury], there were two ambulances behind the government building [...] – they were filled with people (6-8 injured people in each one), mainly women with head injuries [...]. They were breaking people into groups and chasing them into “pockets” – and there, they were throwing them on the ground and beating them. They were even beating underage girls – [...] beating them with their feet and sticks, and happily laughing as they did it. [...]
The feeling is that there's a junta and fascism in the country.
I'll tell you honestly, I was scared. But I'm happy that the regime fears me and I'm proud of those who was there [at the rally]. Forgive me, but it's hard [not to sound pompous] after what I've seen with my own eyes. [...]
LJ user aneta-spb, a St. Petersburg-based journalist who came to Minsk to cover the election, posted these updates (RUS) from the rally:
A lot of people on October Square, I'm in the crowd [...], and can't count [how many] because of this. [...] Most people are young, but there are enough mature people, and the elderly. People are calling their friends on the phone, inviting them to the square: “What are you afraid of, come over here, we can't live like this any longer.”
Fights with agents provocateurs had been provoked. Lots of riot police, a whole army [of them] – they are coming to the square from all directions, trying to push people out, but the people aren't leaving. [...]
[...] But it was powerful. Very powerful. [...] Of course, it was a bit scary, too. [...] The Belarusians [did great, truly great]. I'm proud. And the main thing is that the people came out not for the leaders. Which proves one more time that the leaders are [not of primary importance].
LJ user dabrahost wrote this (RUS):
I totally agree with Natalya Radina via EURORADIO: “Lukashenko has declared a war on his own people.”
From this, logically => his whole vertical – is in a state of war with the people => every official and cop deserves a Hague tribunal. EVERY OFFICIAL AND COP! Sooner or later, this will happen.
Witnesses of the beating on the square: they were beating one guy, he fell, the riot police officer came back and [beat him some more, until he lost consciousness]. [...]
[...] The snow on the square in front of the government headquarters is red.
For the record: Belarusian spetznatz are jackbooted thugs [...]
To stand between two columns of riot police as they are closing in on you, when you have only your smartphone as a weapon – isn't nice. My legs saved me. [...]
For the first time I've seen how riot police are beating people with sticks… During our [Ukrainian] orange revolution [of 2004] everything was like in a kids’ fairy tale compared to #electby