On Sunday afternoon, thousands of Russian citizens and political activists marched through Moscow for no other reason than to prove that they could. In an increasingly tense political climate, the marchers wanted to gauge government response to such an assmebly, hoping to complete the walk “without being blocked, beaten, poisoned with gas, detained, arrested or at least subjected to stupid molestation with questions,” says the New York Times.
The idea for the walk was formulated early last week by twelve prominent Russian writers. The writers initially planned to make the walk alone, not expecting the crowds that gathered behind them. Says poet (and march organizer) Lev Rubinstein, “We thought this would be a modest stroll of several literary colleagues, and this is what happened. You can see it yourself.” Many of the followers wore white ribbons, a symbol of anti-Putin sentiment in Russia’s contentious political atmosphere. Protestors at other events have faced detention in recent weeks and the Russian Parliament is discussing a bill that would drastically increase punishment for creating unrest in public places.
The writers began their march Sunday in Moscow’s Pushkin Square, a site devoted to famed Russian writer Alexander Pushkin. Activists estimate 10,000 people joined the authors. Police put the number closer to 2000. Following in the footsteps of the Arab spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements, Sunday’s march is yet another example of the power of modern organizing.