Updated at 16:42,06-12-2016

Opposition Marks Freedom Day by Rally in Minsk (photo)

Opposition activists staged a demonstration in Minsk on Thursday evening to mark the 92nd anniversary of the proclamation of the independence of the short-lived Belarusian National Republic (BNR).

Opposition Marks Freedom Day by Rally in Minsk (photo)

Photo by Agence France-Press

The "Dzen Voli" (Freedom Day) demonstration boiled down to a rally in the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences, the government-authorized assembly place for the event.

Some 2,000 demonstrators gathered in the square amid a heavy police presence.

Opposition Marks Freedom Day by Rally in Minsk (photo)

Shortly before the event, the organizers had their sound-amplifying equipment seized by police, although high-ranking police officials had promised that they would not prevent sound-amplifying equipment from being used at the site.

Opposition Marks Freedom Day by Rally in Minsk (photo)

Photo by RFE/RL

Using a megaphone, speakers called on Belarusians to unite and expressed hope that Dzen Voli would eventually become a public holiday.

Vyachaslaw Siwchyk, leader of a group called "Razam" (Together), urged the crowd to display solidarity with Mikalay Awtukhovich and Uladzimir Asipenka, who were standing trial on a charge of preparations for an act of terrorism. He noted that the proceedings were reminiscent of the Stalin era’s trials.

Alyaksey Yanukevich, chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front, suggested launching a "month-long Belarusian solidarity campaign."

Opposition Marks Freedom Day by Rally in Minsk (photo)

Photo by RFE/RL

Vital Rymashewski, a leader of Belarusian Christian Democracy, wished those present to believe in victory, noting that a new generation of national revivalists was emerging.

Ales Lahvinets, a leader of the Movement for Freedom, called on the crowd to honor the memory of the BNR statesmen who he said selflessly fought for an independent and democratic Belarus.

Opposition Marks Freedom Day by Rally in Minsk (photo)

Photo by Agence France-Press

The city authorities had permitted demonstrators to march from the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences to a secluded park near Bangalore Square, but the organizers rejected the route.
After the speeches were over, they suggested that participants form a line along the opposite side of Independence Avenue, Minsk’s main thoroughfare, so that their flags, banners and signs could be seen by people in passing-by vehicles.

Opposition Marks Freedom Day by Rally in Minsk (photo)

Photo by RFE/RL

A few hundred people, mostly youths, attempted to march down Independence Avenue, chanting "Zhyve Belarus!" (Long Live Belarus!) and displaying historically national white-red-whit flags. They walked about 200 yards along a sideway of the avenue until dozens of police in full riot gear blocked their path at the first crossroads.

Opposition Marks Freedom Day by Rally in Minsk (photo)

Photo by EPC

Standing face-to-face with the police wall, the crowd began to thin and gradually dissolved. No arrests were reported.