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#Euromaidan Protests: ‘We Fight to Remain Ukraine’

After police brutally beat and dispersed protesters in Kyiv on the eight day of #Euromaidan protests and Ukrainian authorities banned peaceful protests and citizen gatherings until January 8, 2014, protesters regrouped and gathered again, this time in larger numbers, to protest in Kyiv and several other Ukrainian cities.

Many of the protests were peaceful, but a smaller group of more aggressive demonstrators clashed with police, launching chains, fire, and smoke bombs at officers, who responded with tear gas and light and sound grenades.

After the police brutality ordered by Ukrainian authorities “to clear Independence Square for mounting the traditional Christmas tree”, the protest movement began calling online for citizens to mobilize again nationwide on December 1, 2013. The reactions of police and Ukrainian officials to the week-long protests against the government's decision to put a halt to a historic agreement that would bring Ukraine one step closer to the European Union seems only to have angered citizens and encouraged more protests.

More than one million Ukrainians from around the country came into the streets of Ukraine's capital on December 1 to express their disagreement with the government's actions. The Twitter account of Euromaidan organizers summarized the protesters’ feelings with the following phrase [uk]:

“And today we no longer fight to become Europe, we fight to remain Ukraine” #Євромайдан #Ukraine #ЄС #Європа #Україна

People began gathering early on Sunday morning in Mykhailivska Square and in Shevchenko Park, forming organized rows and proceeding to march to Maidan Nezaleshnosti [Independence Square], which had been the main protest site until it was cleared by police the previous morning.

Youth advancing to Maidan Nezalezhnosti on Dec. 1, 2013. Plackards read "Strike! Love! Don't give your rights away!", "NO! To police violence!", "Disperce special forces or they will bury us!" and other. Photo by Sasha Burlaka. Used with permission.

Youth advancing to Maidan Nezalezhnosti on Dec. 1, 2013. Placards read “Strike! Love! Don't give your rights away!”, “NO To police violence!”, “Disperse special forces or they will bury us!” and more. Photo by Sasha Burlaka. Used with permission.

It seems the few police officers present at Independence Square did not attempt to stop protesters this time, choosing to run away instead. Soon after the citizens marched to Maidan, social media users reported that the square including the Christmas tree—the alleged cause for the riot police crack down on protesters on the early morning of Saturday, November 30—had been “taken” by protesters . YouTube user Video About uploaded this moment as it was captured on video:

Simultaneously, protesters also moved onto to the Kyiv City Administration building, located nearby. After a few broken windows and some initial nudging with the guards, the building was also taken by protesters. Later in the day, Ukraine's political opposition decided to locate its headquarters there. A protester, Maksym Savanevsky, reported [uk] from Kyiv:

We have taken over Maidan, [the Christmas tree] and [Kyiv City Administration].

A group of more aggressive protesters, however, did not stop at Maidan, but moved on to the Presidential Administration building. Soon the protesters were face-to-face with riot police again, who were tasked with protecting the institution. Several people found an abandoned bulldozer, brought it to the site and tried to use it to penetrate the police lines . Russia Today captured this incident:

Some protesters also used chains, fire, and smoke bombs against the police. The situation that ensued has been the most tense moment of the protests to date. Initially, police used tear gas, light and sound grenades in an attempt to fight off the protesters. Upon realizing that serious violence may ensue, many have started calling on opposition leaders to try to prevent the protesters from provoking authorities to call on special forces.

At the time, the opposition was holding a press conference in the Kyiv City Administration building. Several activists including singer Sashko Polozhynsky and activist Oleksandr Solontai reached the venue before members of parliament. Polozhynski claimed the bulldozer and tried to appeal to the protesters to keep the protests peaceful. The now official Євромайдан [Euromaidan] Twitter account described [ru] the scene:

Polozhynski is like Lenin atop a buldozer! Calls on everyone to stop and use their brains, but [they] do not listen. #євромайдан #евромайдан

The attempts of activists and MPs to calm protesters were only somewhat successful. Eventually, riot police responded and launched at the protesters. They chased people down the streets, beating anyone they could indiscriminately. Among the victims of these events are over twenty local and international journalists, whom police continued to beat even after media representatives clearly identified themselves. Public online television Hromadske.tv shared this photo [uk] of an injured reporter:

Beaten “Groshi” program reporter, Denys Dan'ko

After the conflicts of protesters with police, the opposition publicly condemned the violence, calling aggressive protesters “provocators” and stressing the peaceful nature of protests. MPs were seen convincing people to stop the aggression near Presidential Administration and return to Maidan for peaceful protests. Twitter user Andriy Bilash shared the following photo:

Klitchko calls in people not to go to Bankova [street, where Presidential Administration is located] #євромайдан.

After the clashes with police near the Presidential Administration building, another violent incident took place next to the Lenin monument in downtown Kyiv. Clashes with riot police took place when unidentified radical protesters attempted to destroy the monument. The violence was soon tamed with the help of more moderate protesters who interfered and took control of the situation.

In the meantime, protests on Independence Square were mostly peaceful throughout the day. Protesters hung banners and signs, sang songs and decorated the unfinished Christmas tree frame with Euromaidan signs and posters.

A protester on Maidan Nezalezhnosti holds a sign. Dec. 1, 2013. Photo by Alexandra Gnatoush. Used with permission.

A protester on Maidan Nezalezhnosti holds a sign on Dec. 1, 2013. Photo by Alexandra Gnatoush. Used with permission.

Twitter user Коржик shared the photos of banners from Kyiv's main street, Khreshchatyk. The top banner reads “We are against a police state” [uk]:

New design of Khreshchatyk.

Maksym Savanevsky from Kyiv added [uk]:

This year we have a best Christmas three in 22 years of independence #євромайдан

In the evening, user Коржик shared this photo [ru] of protesters still at Independence Square:

Right now there are fewer people on Maidan than during the day, but still at least 150,000.

As of the end of the day on December 1, 2013, protesters in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities are standing their ground. The opposition has announced that on Monday, December 2, they will call on protesters to block the Cabinet building, their main demand being that the government resigns.

#Euromaidan protesters fill central Kyiv. Dec.1, 2013. Photo by Alexandra Gnatoush. Used with permission.

#Euromaidan protesters fill central Kyiv on Dec. 1, 2013. Photo by Alexandra Gnatoush. Used with permission.

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