Belarus Protests Continue As Nationwide Strike Planned

Protesters in Minsk

Protests in Minsk continued into their 11th consecutive Sunday, as once again Belarusian riot police attempted to crush opposition, deploying stun grenades and batons against crowds of peaceful protesters.

More than 100,000 people marched through the center of the Belarusian capital demanding that president Alexander Lukashenko step down. Should their demand not be met, protesters are planning a nationwide strike that could cripple the economy.

Streams of protesters wrapped in the traditional red and white Belarusian flag passed through the city center, shouting “resign!” and “strike!”

As has become customary since the protests started, authorities cut off mobile internet across central Minsk, shut down public transport and placed heavily-armed officers at key sites. Events passed fairly peacefully during the day, but took a violent turn in the evening seemingly at the instigation of the police.

Human rights group Viasna said 216 people had been detained during the latest protest. There have been no figures released revealing the extent of injuries sustained during the violent clashes.

Protests have been ongoing in Belarus since Lukashenko declared an overwhelming victory in August presidential elections that were widely believed to be rigged. The president’s forces have been brutal in their repression of any opposition to the result, but the movement seems to be growing stronger in the face of the heavy-handed tactics.

Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader who has been in charge for 26 years, has made it clear he does not intend to give up power without a fight. Several opposition leaders have been forced out of the country or arrested over the past two months, and authorities face numerous allegations of abuses against protesters.