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2006 G8 Summit in St.Petersburg - Reports & Photos

2nd Russian Social Forum

mooo/avert | 17 Jul 2006 |

this is a translation of

The 2nd Russian Social Forum took place at the Kirov Stadium in St. Petersburg, July 14 and 15, under heavy repression. Fewer activists than expected participated because many were prevented by the authorities from attending, and indeed the final demonstration was blocked at the stadium's gates by the security forces.

The 2nd RSF proceeded as a combined event of different oppositional russian groups. On the one hand it continued with the success of the 1st Russian Social Forum which itself was preceded by strong, massed protests against massive cuts of social security. On the other hand it also expressed the protest against the G8 summit.

The russian authorities tried to prevent counter-events to the summit by all means. Eventually they provided a dilapidated stadium where the activists could have their summit and accomodations. Located on an isolated island, easy to be blocked by authorities, many activists considered it as a potential trap and refused their participation. On the other hand the Social Forum was the only place for the radical left to present their topics during the summit.

As in other social forums, very different groups were present at the RSF.

Beside strongly represented trotskyist groups there also were marxists and other orthodox communist groups with traditional banners and other equipment. Unions, or rather unionist-orientated activists, anarchist groups, ecological initiatives and some international NGOs were present as well.

In the run-up there were debates about registration and cooperation with the authorities. Some organizers, for example, didn't understand why anarchist groups didn't consent to all participants being obliged to show their passports at the registration. At last the code of practice was that some showed their passports, others did not. At the gates the militia checked the luggage of all participants, a fact that led to some troubles in particular cases and to one arrest.

The first day of the social forum took place in the blazing sun. The openings were overshadowed by the fact that again many activists were hindered in their arrival by authorities. 2 buses from Moscow for example were delayed for almost more than 15 hours. While the different forums were announced, the governor of St. Petersburg made a surprise appearance. She arrived with her convoy just a few moments after the opening and gave a lot of interviews to the press who focused most of their attention to her. Later she also visited some infodesks within the stadium for the cameras and had some discussions with activists.

This appearance was part of a policy in the last few weeks to offer NGOs talks (eg. with Mr. Putin) but to constrict the organisation of protests at the same time, evidenced by the fact that there were so many people prohibited from travelling to St. Petersbug, as well as the arrests designed to keep activists away.

A multitude of workshops was announced, such as workshops on social conflicts in Russia, Russia's role in a globalised world, unionist struggles, fundamental problems of human rights in russia, racism, alternative media etc. Unfortunately, many of them were not able to take place due to the contributers being unable to attend because of the repression.

The workshops about unionist struggles for example suffered from the fact that the delegation of the Siberian SKT, who planned workshops as well, was prevented from continuing their journey at Jekaterinburg. Despite that, there were some interesting reports from different regions - eg. from St Petersburg - where a raising of workers struggles can be noticed - but also new strategies of employers against unions, including restructuring of companies and outsourcing, which aggravated unionist organisation. Deterioration of working regulations and possibilities to support organisation of migrants were issues as well.

All in all, these workshops and discussions were a very important exchange for activists who often act in isolation, many contacts were made, but still there was the deficit of few participants.

Anarchist and other libertarian or radical leftist groups got involved in different ways. Some of them organised workshops, other were had infodesks, and flags and banners were shown. Representatives of different groups, especially from LINK-pressgroup, were organising a press conference dealing mainly with the issue of repression and a lot of information about arrests, rejections at train stations,and court trials was disseminated.

July 15:

Unfortunately there is no information about what happened on Saturday morning.

At noon the social forum was expected to end in a final demonstration which was forbidden by the authorities. In the end a demonstration formed at 2:00 p.m. at the stadium's main stairway and people chanting slogans marched to the main gates, which still were blocked by the police.

Apparently the police were prepared for this situation, as they had entirely surrounded the place. When the demonstration started to move towards the gates, they quickly closed the entrance completely. Around 150 demonstrators were standing in front of the locked gates, chanting slogans, singing and playing more or less traditional political songs (no punk, more like songs of political parties), shouting for their right of freedom of speech also outside of the area which was given to them by authorities. Fortunately there was a lot of press at the scene, which means that in many countries the pictures of Putin's fear of political criticism in the public will be published.

Indeed there were many journalists who had no sympathy for the detainment of 150 people. Many interviews were taken and pictures were shown of the demonstration behind a fence, which was secured by two lines of militia and OMON special police forces.

There were also alarming scenes, for example when the police intervened against a small group of protesters outside of the short-term-prison who were protesting against the police state and demanding freedom for the detained people. Amongst other things they were prevented from painting banners, which reminded of socialist times long gone.

Finally the forum participants were allowed to leave one by one, all of them searched by the police. As far as known there were no further harassments or arrests.

Most of the radical activists did not take part in this demonstration. Lacking possibilities of actions within the stadium and also lacking interest of joining the discussions most of them preferred not to stay at the forum but to look for other places to perform their actions.

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