Belarusian Solidarity Line in San Francisco

For the second time within the past few weeks, several hundred people have gathered in San Francisco to support Belarusians fighting for their freedom. These peaceful protests are called Solidarity Lines and are held to draw international attention to brutal human rights violations that have been happening in Belarus for the past quarter of a century.

Belarus is ruled by “the last dictator of Europe” since 1994. The 2020 presidential campaign has started just two months ago but already proved to be the most violent: key alternative candidates and Belarusian democratic leaders were thrown in jail just weeks after the campaign started. Hundreds of people (including journalists covering the events) were jailed for taking part in peaceful protests against the government violating human and voter rights. Amnesty International has described these events as a “full-scale purge.”

“After 26 years in power, the president of Belarus is so used to be a president. The unfair election for all these years where we all know “who’s gonna win,” shared Nadzeya Norton, one of the organizers of the San Franciscan Solidarity Line this weekend.

One of the protesters, Kevin Burnett, did not know much about Belarus before his friend Asya shared some details. Since then, he’s been supporting the cause,  spreading the word with his friends and colleagues. The US and Europe should also be more proactive in helping Belarusian people, Burnett said.

“I have sent emails to my representatives. I wish Belarusians to get their freedom back.”

Freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly are basic human rights protected in most countries around the world. However, that is not the case of Belarus, where in 2011 president Alexander Lukashenko has signed the law prohibiting citizens from gathering in groups over three people without the government’s permission. In other words, just being may prompt an arrest in Belarus.

“If we were simply standing in the same line in Belarus today, we would be arrested, there would be fines and punishment,” said Norton.

Three years ago, she and a group of like-minded activists started a charity initiative called BY_Help, which gathers donations to help Belarusians pay fines they get for protesting against the Lukashenko regime. In just over a week, Belarusians all over the world and those supporting the cause gathered almost $120,000 to help those in need.

“People who keep coming out and protesting in Belarus despite the brutal crackdowns are very brave,” said Norton.

Belarusian protests quickly became international, and only within the past few weeks covered over 50 cities on five continents worldwide. Check back for our video of the rally in San Francisco!

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