Whatever you do in Belarus with your friends, don’t do nothing.
In response to a growing number of protests against the country’s ruling party, Russia’s neighbor published legislation Friday that would prevent large groups of people from engaging in planned gatherings at public locations even to do nothing, according to the New York Times.
The move appeared to be an effort to discourage organizers who have mobilized protests more and more online, getting flash mobs to appear in the capital, Minsk, doing everything from clapping to walking in a coordinated, public fashion. Sounds threatening, right?
The Times reports on the language of the law, saying it prohibits:
Joint mass presence of citizens in a public place that has been chosen beforehand, including an outdoor space, and at a scheduled time for the purpose of a form of action or inaction that has been planned beforehand and is a form of public expression of the public or political sentiments or protest.
As silly as it may sound, the new rule is part of a very real crackdown on citizens who over the spring and summer have been calling for President Alexander Lukashenko to step down. The country has a history of denying permits to protesters, and the latest step tries to further justify authorities' use of force against organizers.
The BBC reported on a protest of several thousand at the end of June, where participants and a few journalists at the “silent rally” were violently rounded up and thrown in unmarked police vehicles. Many were held for several days. The new law levies a punishment of 15 days of administrative arrest.
Watch an apparent video of one of the clapping protests in June: