New Yorkers Protest Against Belarus Crackdown

NEW YORK -- Some 300 people took part in a peaceful demonstration on January 19 in front of the Belarusian mission to the United Nations in New York, in a show of solidarity with detained democracy supporters in Belarus and to protest Minsk's violent suppression of political dissent.

The rally was co-organized by the New York Public Theater, Amnesty International and the Belarus Free Theater, which is in New York as part of a performance tour.

The rally came a month after the December 19 election that returned President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to power. The vote sparked protests in Minsk that were broken up by police, leading to the arrest of hundreds of demonstrators along with several opposition candidates.

Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, told RFE/RL that the demonstration was aimed at raising awareness in the United States of oppression in Belarus:

"The responsibility that I feel I can take as an American is to make sure that my people are paying attention and hopefully my government is paying attention," Eustis said. "And by doing that [it will] hopefully lead to a change."

The Belarus Free Theater has just concluded a sold-out two-week run in New York performing "Being Harold Pinter," a play loosely based on the late British playwright's dramatic writings and current events in Belarus.

The theater's manager spent 11 days in jail before the troupe left for New York and the performers say the Belarusian KGB continues to apply psychological pressure on their family members back home.


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