Police dragged about a dozen demonstrators from a bustling square today but let a milling holiday crowd of more than 1,000 argue about democracy for hours afterward.
“What are you afraid of?” onlookers shouted at police and paramilitary troops who elbowed and shoved their way to a handful of people in Pushkin Square. The demonstrators hoisted small signs calling for freedom and democracy.
“What kind of democracy is this?” some bystanders asked.
Today was Constitution Day in the Soviet Union, a national holiday. A group called the Democratic Union mounted the protest to demand democratic changes.
Police hauled away a woman carrying a small child after she briefly lifted a sign and began arguing loudly with an elderly man.
‘Aren’t You Ashamed?’
“We do have freedom in this country,” the man said.
“Aren’t you ashamed?” she replied, gesturing at the police as they came to take her away.
The police moved more gently for the most part, exhorting people through megaphones to “move on.”
After 45 minutes, when the crowd had not responded, the demands softened to “Please move on.”
At least 10 busloads of police and paramilitary troops were at the square in central Moscow but fewer than 100 men actually went into the crowd.
Arguments sprang up among bystanders, with some complaining and others defending the government.
A police officer said through the loudspeakers repeatedly: “The people’s deputies have ordered there will be no meeting.”
“What people?” asked a man in the crowd who was elegantly dressed in a gray suit.
Communist Party Monopoly
The fledgling Democratic Union’s main objective is to change Article 6 of the constitution, which gives the Communist Party a monopoly on power.
In the tense moments after the detentions, when no one knew whether police would stop after taking the protest leaders, journalists and police gathered around Nikita Kirilov.
He carried a 1960s peace sign and wore a handmade badge with a drawing of barbed wire that identified him as a Democratic Union member.
“I’m not holding a demonstration. I’m giving an interview,” he told police.
They left him alone.