Dozens of people were arrested in downtown Minsk on Wednesday evening as police tried to suppress a new demonstration in a series of so-called silent protests held in Belarus every Wednesday since June 8 within the framework of an anti-government campaign called "Revolution through Social Networks."
When a crowd of several dozen people gathered in central Kastrychnitskaya Square, men in black uniform formed a line and advanced slowly to clear the area. The operation was observed by Ihar Yawseyew, deputy head of the Minsk city police department/public security police chief. He told reporters that it was prohibited to interview people in the square and urged them to "behave within the allowed limits" and not to photograph and film "like bandits."
Alyaksandr Lastowski, spokesman for the city police department, said to journalists that he had done everything possible for them not to be hindered in their work, as was the case during previous police crackdowns on silent protests. However, he advised them to keep away from the scene.
After being forced away from the square, two groups of hand-clapping people started to walk in processions along nearby streets, clapping their hands and chanting "Zhyve Belarus!" (Long Live Belarus!). Passing drivers showed solidarity with the protesters by honking their horns.
When one of the groups reached the Peramoha movie theater just two blocks away from Kastrychnitskaya Square, it was attacked by plainclothesmen who jumped out of an unmarked bus. The men started to bundle people into the bus. A man in civilian clothes was heard giving a command not to grab journalists. However, the plainclothesmen tried to prevent reporters from taking pictures.
People who police thought were protesters were also grabbed in other places.
According to human rights defenders, up to 50 people were arrested. Those included Alena Likhavid, the mother of Mikita Likhavid, a 21-year-old member of the Movement for Freedom who is serving a 3 1/2-year prison sentence over participation in the December 19, 2010 post-election protest. Ms. Likhavid and some other women were reportedly grabbed when they started to clap their hands in response to the arrest of Dzmitry Buyanaw, son of journalist Lyubow Lunyova.