16 April 2013, 18:26

Hyde Park-style meetings to be held in Moscow parks

Крымский мост Парк Горького Москва-река Центральный парк культуры и отдыха имени М.Горького

The websites of the Moscow Gorky Park and the Moscow Sokolniki Park have unveiled a section, where anyone will be able to register a request to hold a gathering, and then simply turn up at the parks’ sites similar to Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner at the appointed time.

As of May 1, meetings will be held in these two parks between 7-00 and 22-00 Moscow time, with meetings’ maximum capacity due to stand at 2,000 people. Rallies can be held there without any prior approval from the authorities, and an online application will be sufficient. The document should be submitted to the parks’ administration at least three days before the beginning of a meeting. Last year, Moscow lawmakers approved amendments to the law on rallies, allowing mass gatherings to be held at sites similar to world famous Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner.

Alexander Lebedev, a spokesman for the Sokolniki Park’s administration, comments on the topic.

"If the announced goals of a meeting do not propagate violence, extremism and terrorism, the relevant application will be okayed, Lebedev says, referring to the park administration’s online communication with those who will decide to submit the application".

Meanwhile, the opposition is in no rush to do so even though the time is ticking for May 1. “We will not go there and this is a principal stand,” opposition activist and writer Eduard Limonov told Russia’s Interfax news agency on Tuesday. According to opponents of the law on rallies, political actions in designated locations will be non-effective in terms of public impact. Such a reaction is only natural, believes Mikhail Remizov, head of the Moscow-based Institute of National Strategy.

"I think that the opposition will try to hold any major political actions at the heart of the city, Remizov says. As for designated locations at Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner-style sites in two Moscow parks, I would rather describe them as open-air lecture-halls for holding seminars".

Earlier this year, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that the announcement of specially allotted places for holding public meetings does not mean that such meetings will not be authorized elsewhere. No-one is up in arms against meetings and marches if they do not ride roughshod over public order, Sobyanin said.

The city authorities will decide on the opening of more designated locations for meetings after they assess the operation of the first two such venues.

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