Monday, November 25, 2013

Євромайдан: The pro-EU protests in Ukraine

In an earlier post, I wrote about the transformative power of art. I argued that Ukrainian society, specifically, needs a complete reset if the country is going to change for the better. I didn't know how prescient I was being. It seems that Ukrainians have realized that the only path to meaningful change is through a reboot--that is, a revolution.

Last week, the Ukrainian president suddenly reversed his pro-EU speech. He had a mysterious meeting with Vladimir Putin. No one knows what was discussed during that meeting. All anyone knows is that when he came back to Ukraine he was no longer sure he wanted to sign the Associate Agreement with the EU.

That was evidently the last straw for Ukrainian citizens. It seems that they have had enough of other countries dictating what Ukraine should do. Since Thursday night, there have been protests all across the country--and all across the world, in fact! People have been protesting in countries like India, Canada, South Korea, Great Britain, the United States, and the Czech Republic. These protests are called Євромайдани or "Eurosquares" (as in town square). The aim of these protests is to show the government and the whole world that Ukrainian citizens want to integrate into the EU. Ukrainians seem to have realized that deep change is needed in order to do this.

Yulia and I agree, and we attended the Євромайдан in Lviv yesterday. It seemed to be less of a protest and more of a rally. The local government is on the side of the protesters. Lviv is generally a pro European city (a European city is probably more accurate). Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor, even spoke at the meeting. See our video, an excerpt from his speech, on YouTube.  

"The EU is in Ukraine," is what this sign on city hall seems to be saying.

The goddess Diana is also pro-EU

Yulia and I just signed up for Twitter, and we have noticed what a big role it has played in these protests. Since Thusday, Twitter has been flooded with messages about Євромайдани across Ukraine and the world.

About two hours ago, there was a spike in tweets. I watched in real time as people called for help in a clash against riot police. They sent pictures and videos from Kyiv. Here is a video that shows the scuffle unfold (fast forward to minute 43 for the fight). Police hit protesters with billy clubs and used tear gas to try and disperse the crowd. The protesters are serious though, and they stood their ground. I am proud to write that the police ended up retreating.

The police, in fact, have been acting against the interests of the citizens they are supposed to be protecting. I read an article in the Kyiv Post that describes how they protected the statue of Vladimir Lenin in Kyiv. Protesters tore down a tent that is manned by the Communist Party of Ukraine. Representatives from the communist party have been keeping watch by the statue 24 hours a day since it was vandalized in 2009. The protesters then attempted to destroy the monument, but the police protected it.

It's odd to me that they protect a piece of rock, but beat living people. And this isn't even a statue of a Ukrainian. It makes the police (and the president, for that matter) seem like they are foreign occupiers. The statue is in a public space. If the public does not want it there, then it should be taken down. It should not be imposed on Ukrainians in their own capital.

I'll hold off on making any conclusive comments just yet. I'm sure there's more news to come. We'll have to wait and see how this all ends.

If you are interested in seeing a live video feed from the protests in Kyiv, see this site.

1 comment: