Murmansk bicycle ride cancelled due to new protest law
Local authorities recommended the organizers to call off a long planned bicycle ride on Sunday due to the new Russian law restricting public protests.
The traditional Critical Mass rides are held in more than 300 cities around the globe every month. The purpose is to attract public attention to the problems of cyclists. Murmansk, like many other Russian cities, has a growing number of bikers, but an even larger growth in cars occupying the streets.
The Murmansk bike club says on its portal that the purpose of the bike ride is to show that bikers are fully participants of the traffic in the roads. A single biker is vulnerable in the traffic, but together bikers are powerful.
The bicylce ride was supposed to go from Kolski Prospekt to the Palace of Culture near the five-corner square downtown Murmansk.
Last year, the rally gathered some 100 bikers in Murmansk. This year, the plan was to bike in columns of ten and ten bikers towards the city centre.
Sunday’s bike ride was even announced on the official portal of the city of Murmansk. Today, the biker club's portal shortly announces the cancellation of the ride “due to circumstances arising.”
Details are however posted on the forum of the biker's portal, explaining that Murmansk executive authorities recommended the bicycle club to cancel Sunday’s traditional Critical Mass ride. Organizer Vladimir Marchenko says to Interfax that law enforcement officers called on Friday and reminded him of the increased penalties for violating the law "On gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets."
300,000 rubles fine
The new law, signed by President Putin in June, raises fines for participating in a unsanctioned public protest to 300,000 rubles (€7,510) for single participants and up to one million rubles (€25,000) for organizers.
Opponents then said the law would make it easy for the authorities to take measures against any public protest by opposition forces, as reported by BarentsObserver.
50 to 60 bikers defied the warnings
Despite cancellation of the offical ride and the warnings from the regional department of the Internal Ministry, some 50 to 60 individual bikers appeared in central Murmansk Sunday afternoon, locals reported on Facebook. The police that arrived did not stop the bikers, but silently watched them from inside the police cars.
After biking the central streets of Murmansk to the Palace of Culture, the participants disappeared in different directions.