So sorry it has taken me so long to post this. I was thinking today, that I just had to sit down and do it. I just don’t know quite how to put all the words together. This post will probably be a bit everywhere and no where, but I’ll see what I can do to keep you with me. This one is about well the facts, and some non-facts (aka feelings) of what’s going on in these parts, look out tonight for some not so matter of fact ideas about what’s going on.
Read about how this all got started here.
The Trip to Kiev (memories from 11/27-11/29)
Some friends and I (about 9 of us) gathered together on Wednesday night to go to Kiev. The trip started a bit differently than we anticipated. After waiting for a but for almost 4 hours, we were informed that the bus would not be going this evening. The bus driver was scared to go (the government had been intimidating bus drivers taking protesters to Kiev and had already turned around 13 such buses, which included stealing the driving credentials and plate off of one bus), and we were told that if we wanted to wait till morning, one would probably be going, but there were no guarantees.
At this point (almost midnight), we lost some folks. They were going to find their own way to Kiev in the AM. So we were down to 5. The five us trekked over to the train station where we got train tickets for a train leaving almost immediately, and off we went.
We arrived in Kiev the next morning, and after getting some food and meeting with some more friends, we headed off to the square where the student protest was happening. What we initially found, was quite disappointing. There were like 20 folks there. At this point in my brain, this blog post was called ‘The Revolution that wasn’t’. However, after 45 minutes or so, the square started to fill. There were probably 500 students in front of Shevchenko University by the time we headed to Independence square where the main protests were being held. It is my understanding that up to this point, there had been sort of two separate protests; the students, and Independence Square. The one in Independence Square was sporting political flags and having politicians (from the opposition/the party not in full control right now) do a lot of speaking. On this particular Thursday, everyone had resolved to take away the party flags, and unite under the Ukrainian and EU flags. The student protest was to join the main protest that evening at 6:30PM.
As we arrived at Independence Square, a little before the rally was supposed to start there were still thousands of people there. Folks warming up by barrels (the Ukrainian winter is in full swing here), and people with flags and banners was the sight we came upon. The statue in the middle of the square was covered with posters and people. There were riot police on the outskirts, looking fairly nonthreatening with their helmets of, just studying the crowd, facing outward.
And this is sort of how the night went. More and more folks filled the square (thousands). There was dancing and chanting.
Friday, was a different animal. We stayed in the square most of the day with maybe a thousand people, through the wintry mix that fell upon us. We eventually left for a late long lunch, and when we returned, the scene had changed drastically.
Dueling Protests (11/29)
When we returned around 6ish from lunch/dinner, there were about 2,000 riot police in full gear surrounding the square across the street where an opposing protests was being held. Maybe 700 folks were holding an anti-EU protest. The police, we thought, was there to maintain peace between the two, as they were forming a formidable looking barrier between the two. I have never seen so many cops in one place in my life. The sight was a bit startling. Protesters on the outer edge of the pro-EU protest were facing the other protest.
This anti-EU protest, it is said, was filled with people paid by the Party of Regions (the president’s party). They were sent text messages that told them if
they came to the rally they wold receive 200 UAH. We popped over there for a bit, mostly because I wanted some photos, and we wanted to see what was up. This fella got up on the stage, and hollered something that I didn’t understand, and then said, this is a free open mic, who wants to get up here and say something against EU integration.
No one wanted the stage. This man then got a bit more angry. There was a news camera present, that was filming and they were encouraging this one man to get up on the stage. A man finally gets up there, he’s drunk. So so drunk, and starts saying, well nothingness. We all shake our heads and leave.
We attended the pro-EU protest for a few more hours before we departed on a train back to L’viv, safe and sound.
The Morning After (11/30)
We arrived in L’viv around 6:00 AM, and the really nice fellas in the coupe (we rode in high class, y’all), asked us as we exited, if we’d been the Maidan (which is in general what we’re calling all of this), and they informed us that the police had cleared the square while we were on the train. There was no one left at Maidan.
As soon as we got home, on went the computers to find out what had happened.
This is what we found:
Police violently break up Independence Square protests at 4 a.m. today; many injuries reported (VIDEOS AND UPDATES)
While we were sleeping the police swooped in on approximately 400 folks that were occupying the square and used extreme force to clear it. There are videos and photos of those that were beaten that were bleeding from their heads, ears, and noses. Theses folks were peacefully gathered. These folks were old, young, male, and female. This night, the riot police, and those who ordered this action, brought about our current situation.
After the outrage of the attacks on peaceful civilians on Saturday morning, protesters came out in droves. Initially, and on Saturday, folks regathered at a square in front of a church, not too far down the road. On Sunday, it is reported that anywhere from (the very conservative estimate) 100,000 people to (what is held to be generally true among Ukrainians in my area) over half a million folks came out to protest and scream for the resignation of the government. On Sunday, some particularly pissed of folks, tried, and failed to take the President’s house by force. Some will say that the folks who started this, and planted this idea were paid “provocateurs” to help the government prove that it’s not a peaceful movement, and allow the President to enforce an emergency situation.
Protesters did, however, manage take take over two other government buildings. They did also, take back Maidan Square, and fortify it against further attempts by the riot police to regain control.
The Rest of the Week
During the week, thousands of protesters have continued to fill squares all over Ukraine. Western news media, after the attacks on Saturday morning, finally started making Ukraine front page news.
They tried to pass a vote of no-confidence in the parliment this week, that failed.
The parliament passed laws making it illegal to gather in certain places in Kiev, including Maidan Square.
The president traveled to China (to sign an awful agreement), and is currently in Russia.
There has been outcry and shaming from leaders all over the world in reference to the actions of the government against the protests.
There has been support from leaders all over the world for the Ukrainian people that are standing up for their country and their beliefs.
Some people are still missing from the attacks last Saturday, and loved ones have put up posters.
Organizers of the protests (9 people so far that I know of) have been arrested. Two of whom have been sentenced to two months in jail already.
The people have called for the names of the riot police that cleared the square so that they may be brought up on criminal charges.
Some documents have been circulating that cite the Ukrainian government requesting names of all students that have missed classes during this time.
Today, the organizers have called for all able bodied Ukrainians to come together in Kiev. They are hoping for a million people to be in attendance. Today they will elect a “People’s Action Committee” that will represent the people, negotiate with the politicians, and submit proposals to overcome the power crisis. They are not allowed to be folks that are currently affiliated with the government, or live outside of the income they claim (which I think is an interesting requirement). They must be able to speak three languages, be of sound mind, and have no past criminal convictions.
All this to say, it has been mostly peaceful. There have been a couple of instances of violence, this is true, however, it is my general impression that on the news in The States, they’ve only been showing the violent parts. Who could blame them, I mean that sells right?
I blame them. This isn’t what this is all about. In the city that I live in, there have been zero instances of violence. In most cities there have been zero instances of violence. I have been getting messages from family and friends all week worried. Lectures from my father and grandmother about staying away from the violence. They love me. I’m not angry, at them. Get it together tv news, talk about how peaceful it is, talk about the amazing attitude of community that has been present, talk about how the Ukrainians are fighting for the ideals of freedom and prosperity in the face of overwhelming obstacles. Ya know, the kind of thing that the US is supposed to love.
Ukraine will need your prayers today, tomorrow, next week, next month, and for the foreseeable future in reference to this. I urge you to try to find the middle ground in the news that you watch. Try to read some articles about it instead. The Times, Washington Post, Guardian, BBC, and others are really writing some amazing articles about the complex situation here in Ukraine, and aren’t just showing images of violence.
I pray that God’s will prevails. I pray that violence will not. I pray that the Ukrainian government will hear the will of the people, and relinquish their hold on this country so that they may move forward into a future not tied to Russia, and not stalemated in between the EU and Russia. I pray for peace, justice, mercy, and love.
I hope you will too.
Here’s a video from Kiev on Friday night (11/29) where the crowd broke into the national hymn (anthem)