Belarus police clamp down on Minsk “silent rally”

Police and government Special Forces in Belarus have broken up a protest rally against economic hardship in the country, arresting scores of peaceful demonstrators.

­More than 1,000 people gathered at an unauthorized rally against the government’s economic policies, near the main presidential headquarters in the capital Minsk on Wednesday night.

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­The rally was called by social networking opposition though popular social networks. They called on citizens to gather near the city's October Square at 16:00 GMT (20:00 Moscow time). Though they call for radical changes on the Internet, in real life this was called a “silent rally.” The activists did not have banners nor were they chanting, merely clapping their hands and stamping their feet.
Dozens of cars joined the latest demonstration, driving slowly along key roads and sounding their horns.

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­The government had warned that Wednesday's rallies were banned. Police had also cordoned off streets in Minsk and shut down public transport. But hundreds of youths gathered in small groups in the center of the city, some arriving on bicycles.

At the beginning of the rally police arrested about 20 activists, but then they started to detain innocent passers-by who found themselves on Minsk’s central square.  

At least five journalists from local news agencies, radio station and newspaper have also been arrested.  

There is still no official information from the Belarus Interior Ministry on the number detained, while the Vesna human rights group claimssome 450 activists have been detained, and hundreds more have been interrogated by the police and KGB, Belarus' security agency.

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­Police reportedly started to release arrested protesters on early hours of Thursday. 

Independent online media and bloggers in Belarus said that Wednesday's silent rallies took place in about 30 cities and towns across the nation of 10 million people.

This was the third Wednesday of rallies in a row for Belarus, which is undergoing a severe economic crisis.

Two previous rallies, also organized on the Internet, have been banned and dispersed, and many activists were interrogated ahead of the third one held in Minsk,

“Silent rallies” against President Aleksander Lukashenko’s economic policy have being held in the country since the beginning of June.  

The last such demonstration was held in Minsk on June 15. It was reportedly attended by up to 1,000 activists. On that occasion police arrested fifteen people, but they all were soon released.