Activists are now more likely to be persecuted and punished after a clamping down of massive meetings, protests and demonstrations. Given the current climate, knowledge and protection of rights for citizens is hugely important
The School of Public Defenders, that aims to teach citizens about their personal rights when dealing with the authorities, will open on 27 November in the open space for Human Rights in St Petersburg. Registration is open until 26 November, and classes will be conducted in Russian. From activists to minority groups, residents of St Petersburg have been unjustifiably targeted by the police, and with the help of legal experts, the school intends to provide solutions to this problem.
After the 2011-2013 protests, Russia was set on a course towards international isolationism, and began to face mounting economic problems. The authorities, in an attempt to deflect attention from internal problems, have sought to consolidate public opinion around the notions of unity and patriotism, “traditional values” and fear of the country’s purported enemies from abroad and within.
“The laws for massive protests and demonstrations became stricter, and activists are now more likely to be persecuted and punished,” says activist Ilya Ershov, one of the main representatives of the school and coordinators of the open space. In the Russian Federation, activism is now often associated with the workings of “foreign agents.”
The event will begin with a presentation of the school and introductory lectures on the nuances of the legal system in Russia. The lectures will be held by Arkady Gutnikov, coach, professor and expert in legal education.
“The new school is important because punishment for people that take part in protest and demonstrations have become increasingly harsher,” says Ershov. A large number of his fellow activists have spent time in police captivity, some of whom were further involved in lawsuits.
According to Ershov, there has been an increase in the number of detention in St Petersburg recently. Many detainees are often forced to await a lawsuit prior to their release. The administrative process, particularly for activists, has become more difficult.
“It has become harder to go to mass meetings, demonstrations, actions and protests,” says Ershov.
The school will continue to operate until mid-April 2017. Classes will be held every Sunday in the open space for Human Rights on 34 Dostoyevskaya Ulitsa, and occasionally on Thursday evenings, except for the Christmas holidays.