“I didn’t see police brutality”: human rights activist Bartlett on opposition demonstrations in Moscow
Independent Canadian journalist and human rights activist Eva Bartlett, who attended an agreed rally on Academician Sakharov Avenue in Moscow on August 10, told RT about what she saw at the demonstration and compared it with protests in Venezuela, Canada and the Gaza Strip. According to her, the surprise was caused by the fact that there were a large number of young people at the rally, who at the same time often showed indifference to what was happening. In addition, she did not agree with the Western media in assessing the severity of the actions during the detentions. As Bartlett emphasized, in France or America, protesters face a high level of violence. In addition, the human rights activist saw the facts of fraud by overseas journalists when covering events in Moscow.
- You attended a protest rally on Sakharov Avenue, if I am not mistaken, the largest in the past nine years. Your comments?
- I was interested to see how the Saturday rally will take place. There were reports - mostly of the western, but also of some Russian media - about the excessively harsh police actions against peaceful protesters. She herself wanted to find out what the situation would be: if the police act severely, then under what circumstances; if delayed, then for what and how. I wanted to understand how true the reports of the Western media are. Saturday's action was agreed (with the authorities). That is, the protesters were allowed to gather in the indicated place - unlike a number of previous cases, which, apparently, were accompanied by much more numerous detentions. I arrived at the place early, spent two or three hours there and saw that there were a lot of people. Opposition sources report about 50-60 thousand, government - about 20 thousand. I can’t say how much the real number is closer to this or that message, but even if we assume that there were fifty thousand, then in comparison with the population of Moscow (which, as far as I know, exceeds 12 million people), this is not so much .
In any case, I did not see any manifestations of police brutality either during the agreed action or during the ensuing unauthorized one. But there were detentions - I saw it.
We’ll talk about the protests in other countries, but on those where I was present, I was able to both observe and experience the brutality of the police and the military. In Moscow, people were mostly simply taken away. Maybe there were some cases that I did not see, but I stayed at the site of the second rally until the territory was completely released (from the protesters).
- Have you managed to understand what the purpose of the opposition is?
- As far as I understand, people are unhappy that some candidates were not allowed before the mayoral election ...
The people I saw at the protest were, it seemed to me, quite young.
And I was surprised that all these young people were so interested in this issue. However, during this action there were moments when they were very active, and then there were long periods when they behaved very quietly. And it seemed that some people simply did not know what they should do there or even why they were there.
Then on Twitter I saw some messages. I don’t remember the name of this journalist, but he seems to have interviewed people on this action, asked questions about their political views, and they didn’t have any nuance ...
I can’t say something specifically from my experience here, because I don’t speak your language - but I got the impression that some people may have come there, for example, for musical performances ...
- You saw a lot of opposition demonstrations around the world ... How would you compare them to what was in Moscow?
- Yes, I can, for example, make comparisons with other protests that I have been to: in Caracas in Venezuela, in Toronto in Canada, as well as in the Gaza Strip in Palestine.
As for Caracas, here we can make a comparison from the point of view of the atmosphere. I was at two pro-government demonstrations. I tried to attend opposition rallies - but they never took place. Although I tried very hard to get on them ... But as for the pro-government demonstrations - they were very active, joyful ... The people with whom I spoke on the streets had very nuanced views that they expressed well - what they advocate, why they are here.
During the protest last Saturday, I did not have that impression.
As for the protests in the Gaza Strip and also in Bilin, in Palestine - I have been there for more than 10 protests. I know that the Israeli army showed unacceptable violence against the protesters. In the village of Bilin, high-speed tear-gas shells were fired at Palestinians, causing people to die and be injured. And in the Gaza Strip (speaking from my own experience, I have been there for three years), they are immediately firing live ammunition. I was at a series of protests in the Gaza Strip where Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition at young men and women.
Although many people, like me, recorded events and wrote about them, I don’t remember the Western media talking angrily about the brutality of the Israeli army. But now we hear indignation over detentions or violent measures of a completely disparate level. Although, I repeat, I personally have not seen violence here.
Speaking of comparisons, protesters in Palestine face brutality from the Israeli army; protesters in France - from the French law enforcement and security agencies; the same is in Canada and in America; but for some reason (I say it rather rhetorically), the Western media see an opportunity to resent themselves, talking about the current protests in Russia and Hong Kong.
This morning I studied the question: I was wondering how many times the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has reported the protests I mentioned in the Gaza Strip, in Russia and in France. In the Gaza Strip, protests seem to have been going on since March 2018; this campaign is called the "Great March of Return." And speaking of the protests in France, I mean, of course, the movement of the "yellow vests", which began around November 2018. And the Moscow protests, it seems, about five weeks? I did search queries on CBC. Moscow Protests - 467 results. “Yellow vests” (which go much longer) - I got 302 results. Protests in Gaza - 386 results. As you can see, the number of results is disproportionate. Not all of the results of the protests in Russia related to today, some to previous years. Nevertheless, there is a skew in the coverage of these protests.
I arrived in advance to the venue to arrive on time (to its beginning). Thus, I could observe the behavior of some journalists. Law enforcement officers formed a cordon wall where barriers were installed between the crowd and the stage, policemen also stood behind the protesters. I saw several journalists moving their cameras close to the faces of the police. One woman methodically shot the faces of all the cops she could find on the phone. Other journalists took selfies, such as “captured photos” with the police.
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I noticed that the protest was filmed in such a way that the police stood with their backs in the frame. Perhaps this is an artistic device, but it seemed to me that in this way the journalists set the tone for their reporting. Namely: these people are innocent, and these are cruel. In fact, that’s all you need to know. I had such a feeling. I saw how one journalist tried to provoke the police, but they did not respond. It made her angry, and she left.
I got the impression that setting the shot really played a big role.
Returning to the CBC ... One of the actions within the framework of that rally was agreed upon, while the other did not. At that time I wasn’t in the know, but some of the opposition supporters suggested that the participants, so to speak, “take a walk” after the agreed rally, although they did not have permission to conduct this procession (before the presidential administration). Meanwhile, this is exactly how this part of the action was presented in the news - they say, the protesters “just walked”. I didn’t know then that the agreed meeting would have a continuation, I just saw the procession and out of curiosity went after its participants to the square, which they literally filled with. People shouted slogans, still holding posters in their hands.
The action was attended by two journalists from the CBC channel. We argued with one of them on Twitter. She insisted that it was a simple walk, that she did not see any posters, did not hear any slogans. And here the fun begins. I decided to look for some videos to confirm my words, because there were many journalists at the scene. I found a video in which her colleague - who was standing right next to her - in an interview says that he saw a protester being detained with a banner in their hands. Apparently she was lying. I believe that she did this with the intention of presenting everything as if innocent and peaceful citizens, just walking along the street, are being detained by aggressive law enforcement officers, photos of which have already been shown to you, preparing you for such a development of events.
Media coverage of the protests exclusively in Moscow. In addition, in many cases, journalists present material in accordance with predetermined rhetoric. One gets the impression that people justifiably want this particular problem to be resolved. At the same time, it is likely that external forces are manipulating this issue with the goal unchanged for the United States and its allies: to denigrate Russia.