People took part in a rally in support of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Saint Petersburg on Saturday. Olga Maltseva / AFP via Getty Images Hide caption
Olga Maltseva / AFP via Getty Images
Olga Maltseva / AFP via Getty Images
Despite the Russian government’s attempt to censor content on various platforms, protests exploded across Russia over the weekend, fueled mainly by videos posted on social media. Defying extreme cold, police brutality and mass arrests, protesters called for the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was arrested shortly after his return to the country last week.
Social media helped spark and organize the protests after Navalny called on his followers take to the streets on Saturday. Videos and posts promoting promotions quickly went viral, especially on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. TikTok videos with the hashtags “Free Navalny” and “January 23” had more than 200 million views as of Thursday. according to the news site Open Media.
Young people in particular began to dress for upcoming rallies or as The Moscow Times noted removing Russian President Vladimir Putin Portrait hangs in classrooms and often replaced with Navalny’s photo.
However, Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor was quick to press for pressure on social media platforms to remove videos inviting minors to participate in protests, and warned against it illegal for them to do this. On Friday, the government said that 38% of all offensive videos on TikTok, 50% on YouTube and 17% on Instagram were removed. As of Saturday, Roskomnadzor said more messages on TikTok and the Russian social media app Vkontakte were deleted. Facebook and Google, the owners of Instagram and YouTube, respectively, expressed uncertainty about the accuracy of the numbers. Gizmodo reported.
Attempting to restrict social media communication did not prevent protesters from showing up and posting on social media in tens of thousands in dozens of cities across Russia, from Sakhalin Island north of Japan to Moscow, and begging for the way World to see.
In Irkutsk, near the Mongolian border, thousands sang: “We’re not going!”
In the northern part of Yakutia, protesters gathered in temperatures of minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even in areas where opposition protests are usually avoided, large crowds came out in support of Navalny.
In Moscow, where protesters flocked to the streets, protesters clashed with riot police in tense clashes.
Please watch this video. As a result, the riot police provoke children into a fight on Pushkinskaya today. This is the day of shame for the Russian police. The unrest was staged by representatives of the authorities. pic.twitter.com/xpVufj67VS
– Dmitri Petrovich Aleschkowski (@aleshru) January 23, 2021
A video of a police officer grabbing a child while viewers are filmed on smartphones has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
And in some places, protesters threw snowballs at government officials and police officers.
According to the country, over 3,500 demonstrators had been arrested across the country by Sunday OVD info, an activist group that monitors arrests and protests. The group said they have never followed so many arrests.
The US State Department condemned the violence and arrestsciting the attempt by the Russian government to control social media platforms and tighten restrictions on independent media.
“The continued efforts to suppress Russians’ right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, the arrest of opposition person Aleksey Navalny and the subsequent crackdown on protests are worrying signs of further restrictions on civil society and fundamental freedoms,” said department spokesman Ned Price in a statement. “We call on the Russian authorities to release all detainees for exercising their universal rights and the immediate and unconditional release of Aleksey Navalny.”
Anton Svetushkov, an economics student who participated in the protests on Saturday night, told NPR It was his first ever rally. Even when there were arrests around him, he said he was ready to be there.
“There comes a certain point where you say, OK, now I have to go beyond my own insecurities and just move up,” said Svetushkov.