“Free Navalny!” | San Francisco joined global anti-Putin rallies

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s opposition leader and prominent critic of Putin, was arrested on January 17, shortly after his flight landed in Moscow. Navalny spent five months in Germany undergoing treatment after poisoning with Novichok nerve agent, allegedly carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied FSB’s involvement in the poisoning.

According to Russia’s authorities, the reason for Navalny’s arrest is his violation of the terms of a suspended 2014 conviction for money-laundering. According to Navalny, the case was illegitimate and politically motivated. January 17, Amnesty International recognized Navalny as a prisoner of conscience. In response to Navalny’s arrest, mass protests started across Russia and worldwide, joined by around 80 countries.

Maria Boyarkina, organizer of the San Francisco rally | ‘Free Navalny!’ Russian expats hold an anti-Putin rally in San Francisco — LiveFEED
Maria Boyarkina, organizer of the San Francisco rally

Maria Boyarkina is the organizer of the rally in San Francisco. She says it’s simply her civic duty to hold this event.

“After it was announced on social media that all Russia is coming out, I decided to see whether there’s an event in San Francisco since we have a huge Russian-speaking community here. There was no event, and so I decided to organize it.”

Same as in Russia, the protesters worldwide demand the release of Navalny and the resignation of Putin.

“We talk about honesty here, about the right to vote, the right to choose, the right to freedom. A person has the right to a change. It’s not that important who comes into power, but it’s important for the people to be able to see the change and to compare,” Boyarkina noted.

Belarusians joined the anti-Putin rally in San Francisco | ‘Free Navalny!’ Russian expats hold an anti-Putin rally in San Francisco — LiveFEED
Belarusians joined the anti-Putin rally in San Francisco

Putin came to power on December 31, 1999, when he took office as the acting president. However, he is not the only one with a long carrier. Alexander Lukashenko, president of the neighbor Belarus, has been in power since 1994 and is currently also facing mass protests following the widely disputed presidential election held on August 9, 2020. In solidarity with their Eastern neighbors, Belarusians joined the anti-Putin rally as well.

“In Belarus, we have a similar situation going on since August. Based on the example of Belarus, it’s just a matter of coming out every week, every day until the regime digs a hole for themselves,” shared Andrey Elenskiy, one of many Belarusians who joined the rally.

Maria Boyarkina emphasized they’re ready to continue coming out for as long as needed, holding the same peaceful rallies to draw international attention to the situation in their country, until it eventually changes.

Meanwhile, anti-Putin demonstrations continue in Russia and abroad for the second week. Check out our video coverage of the rally in San Francisco!

Photos by Dennis Bindarau, LiveFEED

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