I’m at home now after a night spent at the police department. Me and three of my comrades were arrested for showing our disapproval to Nazis, who came to the International Russian Conservative Forum that was held in Holiday Inn, St. Petersburg 22nd of March. If you don’t know what was hidden behind their “traditional values” discourse, you can read this article.
Three agogos, three drums and one little pot – this was what we used to make sure Forum members would hear our unwelcoming call. Our message for Forum members who didn’t understand Russian was simple: “Nazi, fuck off!” We also had one banner in Russian, which was: “Net fashizmu vseh mastey, ot podvoroten do vlastey!” (“Deny fascism of any kind, from backstreets to government height!”) After we finished playing, the most interesting part of the day began. Police officers kindly welcomed us with their “warm” hugs. Some of us tried to escape their friendship, and some of us managed to. Two of our comrades could escape thanks to somebody who unlocked door of the police car when police was distracted because of an activist wearing “Orthodox church or Death” shirt who ripped a poster that said “We defeated Nazis in 1945, and we will defeat them in 2015” and hit a person holding the poster in the face and (he was set free soon). Me and Zufar took their generosity and placed ourselves at the back of an the police car, a special car for people like us. That was at 1:30 PM. At 2 PM we were driven to the police station №29.
Four of us (two girls, one boy and me) spent some hours on the bench at the police department. Many officers tried to talk to us and refused to tell us their names. We told them about the section 51 of the Constitution of Russian Federation, on freedom not to testify against oneself . We were waiting for our lawyer to come. I was asked to enter a room with five or six officers in it, one of them tried to take a picture of me, I refused to be photographed, and he hit my hand several times. I yelled. The other was writing a report, and I was interested in that, so I attempted to read it and was asked to leave the room. I managed to see the articles they were charging us with (20.2 and 19.3, and it’s actually illegal to charge two articles for one action). Their account was also different from what we actually tried to tell Forum members.
Then officers from E-Center, Center for Counteraction against Extremism (which is actually very interested in leftist and LGBTQ activists), employee arrived and asked our comrade Z. for an interrogation. The officers didn’t tell his name. They spent quite a lot of time there, 30 or 60 minutes. Then I was asked to join. They took me to the second floor, to the criminal division, I could see Z. and noticed that he was very stressed. I tried to talk to him and the E Center employee told me to fuck off. His colleague took me to the next office. When I refused to talk to him without my lawyer, he started insulting me. He used second person singular, asked me if I was a normal person and called me “yebanko” (the closest translation is “a fucked-up person”). Soon they gave up, but they did not let my friend go. Later he told us that the E Center employee told him he looked like a “chick”, called him a “faggot” and a “churka” (a slur aimed at people of colour from the former Soviet countries, can also be used against people from southern countries), asked him if he belongs to “Antifa”, hit his head several times, dragged him by the hair, told him that it didn’t take long to make Nazis speak, and he would start speaking even sooner, when he would be taken to the basement. He took a photo of Z., and he had no right to do that. He demanded Z. to write “an explanation”, Z. wrote that he was hit and insulted, the officer destroyed the explanation, hit and insulted him several times more.
Police officers tried to talk to us informally several times more after that. They passed us papers to write “explanations”, we refused to write anything without the lawyer. I was taken to a different room, and the officer began to write a protocol. I wrote that they didn’t read my rights to me, that I didn’t receive a copy of the protocol, and I didn’t agree with the protocol. Later they put a pressure on us to sign another protocol, we weren’t refusing to sign it but we wouldn’t sign without the lawyer, who was coming in about ten minutes. We started writing and crossed out the empty spaces to prevent them from adding anything after it, they were very annoyed by this. I realised that I made a mistake and tore up the protocol, and the officer got angry and insulted me. Soon we found out that our lawyer couldn’t come in – they wouldn’t let him in.
Z. felt extremely bad (he has a neurological disease), and soon he needed medical help. We tried to call paramedics, but the ambulance coordinator refused to send help – only a duty officer can call paramedics for us, they said. The officers wouldn’t call paramedics. We were waiting for it for a couple of hours, while Z. was almost fainting. When our lawyer and his assistant arrived, they started talking to the officers and trying to call paramedics. I could see a doctor though the glass, but they didn’t let her in. When paramedics arrived (at 8:20 PM), insults continued, but now from the doctors – why didn’t we stay at home getting drunk, they asked us. They asked us where we worked and studied, they would report to our work or university, they said. They took Z. to the hospital, later he was set free and went home.
We stayed in the same office until about 1-2 a.m. Yana had an internet connection on her mobile, and she was tweeting about everything that was happening there, answering questions, talking to the journalists, she asked for help in the “Help for the detained” community on Russian facebook equivalent vk.com. One of the friends helped to find the lawyer, some people we didn’t even know brought some vegan-food and water, somebody brought sleeping bags and pads (we put them on the floor of the office, where we were going to sleep), warm food and tea. Soon we had so much food, but we didn’t know how long we were going to stay detained. People also started calling the police station, asking about us, asking to provide a sleeping place for us and leaving their complaints. That was fantastic, I didn’t expect this little message to draw so much attention. I found out it managed to cause quite a fuss in the station actually.
After midnight came a female officer and two female witnesses, she told us she was going to search us and to take us to the cell. “Witnesses” were very suspicious. They were waiting at the bus stop, when it was too late for transport. Then they told us they lived nearby. Then, the procedure lasted for a couple of hours, and the witnesses were very patient, smiling, laughing and taking pictures. The officer was extremely rude, she consistently pushed us to hurry. Girls were examined first, and she was writing protocol herself, she wrote down their answers the way she liked them to be, she wouldn’t let us write. When she searched N., she first checked her belongings and asked “Do you have any complaints about the search procedure?” She was too tired to argue, and she thought that the search is over, she didn’t realise that she was going to undress next, so she replied “No”, the officer wrote that down, she signed it, and then the officer told N. to undress.
When I answered this question, I dictated and she wrote down “There was a psychological violence against me“, then she started arguing and telling me she did nothing wrong. I wanted her to write down that she was pushing us, shouting at us, insulting us, but witnesses refused to sign it. They said they had a police practice at the university, and they are sure the officer wasn’t pushing us. I was shocked. I couldn’t make her write down my comments, so it was left like that. Later our comrades told us that the girls were no proper witnesses, but police agents, and it’s a usual practice for police.
Now, about the place where we were searched. The office had a window and male officers were staring at us. We told the female officer this was not going to happen and she needed to find a place where we wouldn’t be exposed. She refused and told us to get undressed in the corridors, where other detained people could peep through the transparent cell doors. My comrades N. and Y. managed to cover each other using the tourist mats, but the officers in the next room could watch us on the security camera anyway, and they were laughing and seemed to enjoy the view. The officer told us it was not possible to search us without filming, which is actually illegal as we knew later. We also realized that this is a normal practice because she told: “Oh, don’t worry, they have already seen everything. Don’t be shy. They see girls undress every day”, she said. We had to even take off our underwear and squat three times.
We spent the night in a cell without windows and ventilation, where walls were covered in piss and the stench was unbearable, there was almost no air. Closer to the morning the girls started freezing. My comrade noticed the officer taking a picture of us lying.
In the morning the officers let us out of the cell and, while they were preparing the papers for court, we could see the arrested people, and it seemed to us many were arrested just because they didn’t look Russian. Some of them asked us if it was daytime or night. One of them was arrested. when he was drinking beer at the bus stop after work, and he spent the night in a cell because he had no St.Petersburg registration. Another person asked why an officer arrested him and screened his fingerprints, “You look just like a bandit”, he replied. The officers told racist jokes and insults.
Some female officer, before she noticed the people who were waiting in the office, were actually us, said “three Russian chicks and a tatar. And the sly tatar has escaped.” There was a Soviet police guide to different nationalities facial traits. The picture was supposed to help identify the nationality of the arrested person. They also didn’t try to hide they supported nationalists:
- So what was happening there, at the “Hotel Inn”?
- Rightists nationalists.
- Good guys.
We went to the court at noon. The hearing was delayed, though, because of the bureaucratic confusion of some kind. They sent the papers back to the police station.
Due to unresolvable inconsistency in the case provided by the police officers, the court held that the case must be remanded for the further investigation.
The case has still not appeared in court, and is unlike to appear due to failure of the police to conduct a proper legal investigation. However, St. Petersburg activists spent 300 euros for legal costs, and donations are necessary to cover the costs. You may donate via ABC Moscow, read instructions from here: http://wiki.avtonom.org/en/index.php/Donate