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On Sunday, protestors gathered at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square in solidarity with the people of Belarus. Following a brief march, protestors sang pro-democracy protest song “Break the Prison Walls” in the glow of the Toronto sign which was lit red-and-white to match the flag variant used as a show of defiance against the government.
Belarus has been rocked by nationwide unrest following the election on August 9 in which authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko is believed to have tampered with results to remain in power after 26 years. Amid ongoing pushback from the police, more than 7000 protestors and around 50 journalists have been arrested, and at least 4 people are dead.
Lukashenko has said “we held the elections and until you kill me, there won't be any new elections.” His main opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, is currently in exile.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has called the election “fraudulent,” and the UN has expressed “outrage” over the situation.
This was the third local event held in solidarity with the people of Belarus. Speaking to The Post Millennial, organizer Mitt Korot of the Belarusian Canadian Alliance said “As the peaceful protests in Belarus continue, so do we.”
When asked if he feels there are parallels between recent Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality here in Canada and the United States, Korot said “Of course the situation is completely different, but in general I think police brutality is a huge issue all over the world. In the Western countries at least we have the rule of law to protect people from police brutality, even though it still happens. But in Belarus there is no rule of law whatsoever. Police brutality is not an exception, it’s the rule.”
Some protestors, like Natalia Smalyuk, feel it is difficult for Canadians to understand what Belarusians are fighting for. “It’s not easy to explain to the Canadian audience what this is all about, but the reality is it’s about an honest election. It’s not about geopolitics, it’s about values. It’s about democracy. It’s about morality. It’s about legality.”
Members of the Iranian, Hong Kong, Russian, and other communities engaged in ongoing conflict against their governments were present in solidarity. Andy Fong said “We fight for freedom. We support any friends who fight for freedom together. We hope the whole world will have democracy.”
Yaro Batinau feels “It’s time for Belarus to join the rest of Europe and become a true democratic nation rather than be the dystopia that we see today.”
As the protest occurred on Lukashenko’s birthday, Korot had a “strong” Birthday wish for the president: “we want to wish him a new job.”