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13 May, 2012 12:03

Thousands test the waters in mass 'Sunday stroll' in Moscow (VIDEO)

Muscovites gathered in their thousands in the Russian capital for what has been dubbed a “trial stroll.” The event went without a hitch, the organizers successfully proving they could carry out a mass meeting without government permission.

Thousands of people flocked to join the march that started on Pushkin Square and made its way through the center of Moscow to Chistoprudny Boulevard.Famous writers, musicians and journalists headed the march, including best-selling Russian writer, Boris Akunin who pioneered the event.Organizers had promised that the event would not be used to stage protests or political messages and emphasized it was merely an exercise in support of their right to gather without permission. “Today on May 13 we have proved that we can peacefully walk through our city,” said Boris Akunin during the march.“The government must understand that it has to speak to its citizens respectfully. If you chase them down with batons nothing good will come of it,” underlined Akunin.Prior to the march concerns had been raised that the march would be broken up by police and arrests would be made. Previous unsanctioned demonstrations in Moscow had led to hundreds of arrests and police clashes with unruly protesters.However, this time, the police were praised for the restraint and respectful behavior during the rally. As the thousands of protesters departed Pushkin Square members of the police warned people “to mind the step,” prompting applause from the marchers.“The police have been really nice, like in some sort of fairytale,” tweeted one of the marchersMoscow police also diverted traffic from parts of the city center in order to make way for the marchers.According to the police, around two thousand people arrived at the march’s end on Chistoprudny Boulevard, although the organizers said up to ten thousands took part in the “trial stroll.” Some of the marchers kept going to meet with an opposition sit-in. The politically ambiguous sit-in dubbed “Occupy Abai,” has been going on for the past six days with members of the opposition congregating there to express anti-government sentiment.