UKRAINE: Activists defend Maidan Tent City

UPDATE – Setting the record straight on Russian Television: No molotov cocktails were thrown at people, no one was hurt, and no one fired a single shot. At least not from what I saw, or what anyone else I know that were at the square saw. RT propaganda working overtime this morning?

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Kyiv, Ukraine. On July 31st, I said that Maidan was not burning. Well, as of this morning, it was no longer the case.

By the time I arrived, the protestors were throwing bricks, bottles and anything else they could find at the rapidly retreating government workers. Tires were lit on fire, the barricades made of wooden boxes, concrete blocks and metal sheets had moved further from the center of the square.

The same boy I had met on my first day in the Ukraine – the young English-speaker from this post (Slava Ukraini: A funny thing happened on the way to the Square) – came trotting up the road with two white jugs filled with, what I presume, was gasoline. He saw me right away, put down his jugs and came to shake my hand.

“Shit,” he said, shaking his head.

“What’s happening?” I asked.

“They’ve come to take down [the] barricades.”

“Is everything okay?”

“No problem. It’s safe. Come on.”

And he led me back behind the barricades where protestors were kitted up. In reaction to the EuroMaidan revolution, the activists in the square had made their own riot gear, gotten their hands on some gas masks and created large riot shields so that they would never be taken by surprise again.

Last night, the residents of tent-city Maidan were told that it was time to clean up the square. Communal workers were issued flak jackets and helmets. Soldiers were called in with them, and they scattered to the four winds as the Maidan activists were ready to defend their turf. This time, by rolling out tires and lighting them on fire. The new line of barricades were lined with Molotov cocktails.

Walking through the barricades

The rhythmic banging of batons on riot shields were everywhere, two slow beats followed by three fast ones. Tat-Tat-Ratatat! again and again, joining into a chorus like the Maidani battle cry. Young boys had gotten on top of a large shipping container and began to beat the same rhythm and chant. Several of them tried to figure out how to operate a nearby crane – to no avail.

Activists had been replacing the old bricks back into the basement a few days ago (see post: Stones of a Sleepless City). Now they were smashing up the pavement again, creating a pile of bricks, prepared to throw them on riot police – just as they had five months ago. They’ll probably keep them stacked there like ammunition, ready to be used again.

Fire fighters were at the ready, crouched by a fire hose to put out the tires that were melting into the pavement. The activists slashed the hoses, making a great fountain in the midst of the hot day. People ran into the water to cool down. The fire fighter gave up and walked away, leaving the damaged hose behind.

I got swept up into the line of soldiers, slowly backing out of the square. One of them grabbed me, pushing me by the waist behind him as belligerent activists screamed at them. The police were calm, they made no sound, but kept a somber poker face as they walked backwards, their arms linked. At one point, someone threw something, and half a dozen people ducked as if it was a grenade. When the protestors began to disperse, their anger turning elsewhere, the policeman that had me by the waist waved to let me know it was okay for me to leave, and I did.

Just as my first day at Maidan ended with a priest singing the Ukrainian National Anthem, with good Ukrainians standing still with their hand over their heart,  so did this morning.

The same priest from that day said a prayer, and arguments among the activists and the policemen began to cool. The soldiers and police left, back up the hill to their headquarters. The activists went back to re-establishing their barricades.

It was difficult to understand which side was which. The police, Maidan Natives themselves, were not willing to aggress on the activists. Likewise, there was great in-fighting among the activists as some said that they were brothers – all Ukrainians! – so they shouldn’t get so mad at the police. Their issue was not with the policemen.

As the fires went out, and the water from the fire hose reduced to a slow, steady stream, both activists and government workers began to chant: “Slava Ukraini! Heroyem Slava!” Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Fallen Heroes!

I don’t know if that will be the end of today’s events.

One Comment

  1. Wow, that must have been intense. The pictures are stunning.

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