Navalny has just moved the planned June 12 protest from Prospekt Sakharova, a fairly central and very spacious location, to Tverskaya, which is minutes away from the Kremlin, at the last minute.
The former event was officially sanctioned by the city authorities.
The new one is *not*.
Navalny claims that this was done because the Moscow city administration pressured sound and stage suppliers not to participate in his event. This makes it impossible for him to give a speech to a large crowd. As evidence, he attached a recording between one of the suppliers and what is presumably one of his staff members, in which the supplier sheepishly explains that he has received instructions from on high not to service the event.
This is his version of the story.
There is however an alternate theory.
The Tverskaya protests on March 26 were unsanctioned, meaning that the more timid and “respectable” avoided showing up. Attendance at a sanctioned meeting, all other things equal, should be considerably higher (the middle-aged office plankton who form a considerable percentage of Navalny’s support base aren’t keen on risking arrest by participating in illegal gatherings). But with less than 12 hours to go, the the number of people saying they are “going” on Facebook stands at a modest 4,000. In contrast, 5,200 say they “went” to the Tverskaya protest in March, which translated to an actual turnout of about 8,000. Assuming the correlation holds, we are looking at similar figures this June. This is decidedly embarassing, especially in light of the anti-khrushchevki demolition protests this May, which gathered 20,000 people – and at the very place where Navalny was supposed to hold his meeting, to add to the humiliation.
Ordinary Muscovites evidently care more about their khrushchevki – and for that matter their summer sojourns to their dachas – than staying behind in Moscow to hear more about Navalny’s latest beef with Uzbek oligarchs. Not good!
So this is where the alternate explanation comes in. Since the original protest looked like it was going to be a flop anyway, why not make a last minute change to “illegalize” it, inviting a potentially heavy police response for the delectation of Navalny’s YouTube fans and Western videocameras?
There is an additional fact that makes this version of events both more plausible, and more potentially dangerous. June 12 is a national holiday (Russia Day), and there is already another event planned for the Tverskaya location – the last day of a 12 day historical reconstruction festival that has been advertised for weeks, and is expected to draw up to 150,000 visitors.
The last day of the reconstruction festival will be dedicated to the defense of Sevastopol in the Crimean War.
So imagine the spectacle of Preobrazhensky Regiment riflemen coming from all over Russia and abroad to support Navalny – and having to pit their “reconstruction skills” against the truncheons of the OMON.
As noted by one Twitter user: “Cameras and headlines are ready.”
Not a lot more to add. Now we wait and see.
Hopefully, the Russian police exercise appropriate restraint, so that we don’t actually have to find out whether the bayonet is a fine lad. They are well funded and quite professional these days, so I don’t think it’s likely things will get out of hand.
It is also worth underlining that it is grossly irresponsible and unethical for someone who pretends to be a serious politician to push his agenda on people who didn’t ask for it, and who only want to watch pretend battles, not risk being caught up in a real one. This applies tenfold if Navalny misrepresented the situation with the stage and sound suppliers to justify his planned hijacking of the reconstruction festival (if so this would not be the first time that he has bent the truth to serve his own narrative).
Though who cares about any of that when there is clickbait to be written about the latest crimes of the Putler regime.
What matters is not absolute numbers who say they are going to attend, but relative numbers from event to event.
Assuming that a similar multiple of Facebook “goings” translate into visitors from event to event, then comparing the previous event to the later event on just one social media platform is legitimate.
Anyhow, there is a banal reason I didn’t include VK – while this current protest does indeed have 15K, I was simply unable to locate the VK event page for the March 26 protest.
Was the counter actually reset to zero after the last event? This is a critical question that I don’t know the answer to (I don’t use VK much and am not very familiar with its fine workings), so using VK data would have been doubly unrealistic.
Anyhow, if anybody can’t answer the two questions above – whether or not the counter reset to zero after the March event, and if it did, what was the peak “going” figure for it – that would be much appreciated.