If the sheer numbers of demonstrators against Moscow’s massive housing demolition scheme are anything to go by, Muscovites are not ready to give up any time soon.
On May 27-28, two more protests authorized by city authorities gathered 6,000 people. The number was less than the 20,000 who rallied May 14, but the fact another weekend saw further protests was in itself significant.
In the years after the 2011-12 Bolotnaya rallies, which gathered tens of thousands,
authorities suppressed street activity. Opposition leaders were
persecuted. Draconian protest laws were passed. Prison terms for
protesting were handed down. But the brutal tactics worked and political
protests all but vanished.
There were exceptions to the
rule. Firebrand opposition leader Alexei Navalny could still gather
rather large crowds. But few expected that demolitions could become a rallying cry, particularly in the absence of a charismatic leader, like Navalny.
But according to political analyst Abbas Gallyamov, the protest has the potential to grow into something much bigger than the Bolotnaya protests.
“Then, people fought for abstract elections. This time round, their property is at stake,” Gallyamov says. “You would expect people to fight much harder for something they hold dear.”