Global activists and celebrities have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the release of all #EndSARS protesters, as well as activists and journalists jailed in various parts of the country.
They made the call in an open letter dated December 10, 2020, and addressed to the President – a copy of which was sighted by Channels Television on Thursday.
The 60 activists and celebrities, under the auspices of Diaspora Rising, asked President Buhari to ensure the reinstatement of the international passports, bank accounts, and other items seized from the jailed persons.
They demanded that the military, security, and intelligence officers found culpable in the incident at the Lekki toll plaza, either giving the order or carrying out the shooting, must be made to face the consequences of their actions.
Signatories to the letter included Reverend Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr; US activist Opal Tometi; as well as actors Danny Glover and Kerry Washington.
Swedish teenage eco-warrior Greta Thunberg, singer Alicia Keys, civil rights campaigner Angela Davis, US congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and Nigerian-American rapper Jidenna, among others, also signed the letter.
According to them, the President should allow a transparent investigation by human rights monitors into the actions that led to the shooting at the Lekki tollgate and ensure the findings are published by media outfits accredited nationally and internationally.
The signatories also called on the President to support peaceful demonstrations in any part of the country to allow citizens exercise their constitutional right to protest.
“As people who have supported the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and throughout the diaspora, we cannot be silent when similar atrocities take place in African countries.
“We demand respect for the Nigerian people, especially as they engage in their constitutional right to protest grave injustices,” part of the letter read.
It added, ”As President of the world’s most populous Black republic, you assume a leadership role on the global stage. Nigeria matters.
“We expect nothing short of care for your people and concern for the reputation of your country. As Nigeria is a major powerhouse for the continent of Africa, you must know, President Buhari, that your response has exponential implications for the continent and the African diaspora.”
The head of Peru’s Congress has called for the “immediate resignation” of interim president Manuel Merino after a violent crackdown on protests against his new government left at least three dead and more than 60 injured.
Thousands have taken to the streets in days of protests against Merino following the ouster of his popular predecessor Martin Vizcarra, who was impeached on corruption allegations on Monday.
“I ask Mr. Merino to evaluate his immediate resignation,” Congress head Luis Valdez said in a statement on Saturday night.
Lawmakers will meet in an emergency session on Sunday to discuss Merino’s resignation, a statement released later on the Congress Twitter account said.
The ultimatum came after news of the death of three protesters during a massive and peaceful march in Lima, which was violently repressed by police firing shotgun pellets and tear gas.
Lima mayor Jorge Munoz, from the same center-right Popular Action party as Merino, also demanded the resignation of the president.
“I just found out about the third death” in the protests, said the Archbishop of Lima, Carlos Castillo, deploring the police crackdown in a statement to state television.
Police reported two deaths, while the National Human Rights Coordinator indicated it was investigating whether there were four.
The Ombudsman’s Office said the first fatality, a 25-year-old man, was killed by pellet shots to the head and face. At least 63 protesters were injured, the health ministry said.
The police tactics have been criticized by the UN and rights organizations such as Amnesty International since the protests began on Tuesday.
– Ministers resign –
Seven of the 18 ministers in Merino’s cabinet announced their resignation Saturday night after the police crackdown, according to local media.
The political crisis appeared to be heading towards the resignation of Merino, whose whereabouts were unknown early Sunday.
“I’m calling him and I can’t get through, I have no idea if he has resigned. I’m not a fortune teller,” Prime Minister Antero Flores Araoz, the government’s number two, told RPP radio.
Lima’s international airport said it was closed due to the night curfew.
Merino has remained silent since the crackdown on Saturday and the call for his resignation.
At around 2:00 am (0700 GMT) Sunday, the government released a photo of Merino meeting with his cabinet, but doubts arose as to when it was taken because it showed the health minister who had resigned hours earlier.
– Tear gas –
Thousands took to the streets on Saturday in opposition to Merino, the former Congress speaker who assumed office on Tuesday as Peru’s third president in four years.
The mostly young protesters gathered in various cities to oppose what they call a parliamentary coup against ousted president Vizcarra.
The largest march in Lima attracted thousands of people, with police again using tear gas fired from helicopters to disperse protesters who were threatening to march towards the Congress building.
They carried signs reading “Merino, you are not my president” and “Merino impostor” while chanting.
The municipal authorities in Lima turned off the public lighting in Plaza San Martin on the crowd gathered there.
The plaza has been the center of protests in the capital.
A group of protesters approached the area around Merino’s home, east of Lima, banging pots and drums.
Archbishop of Trujillo Miguel Cabrejos urged the government to engage in dialogue and respect the right to protest.
“It is essential to listen and attend to the cries and the clamor of the population to regain confidence, tranquility and social peace,” he said in a statement.
When he took office on Tuesday, Merino said he would respect the calendar for the next general elections, scheduled for April 11, 2021, and would leave power on July 28, 2021, the day when Vizcarra’s mandate was to end.
Vizcarra had broad popular support since succeeding Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the former Wall Street banker who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment over corruption allegations in 2018.
Congress impeached and dismissed Vizcarra on Monday over allegations he took kickbacks from developers when he was governor of the Moquegua region in 2014, charges he denies.
The Serving Overseer of Citadel Global Community Church, formerly known as Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to fish out those behind the shootings at Lekki Tollgate during the #EndSARS protesters in the Lekki area of Lagos State.
The protesters had converged on the Lekki Toll Gate on Tuesday night when they were shot by security operatives shortly after the Lagos State Government declared curfew in the state.
Bakare, who spoke on Sunday during his sermon in church, asked President Buhari to prosecute the soldiers who sent many young Nigerians to their early graves and left other with varying degrees of injuries.
“I strongly recommend that President Buhari should ensure that those who ordered armed soldiers to fire on innocent citizens are fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law,” he said.
The senior pastor admonished Nigerians to be wary of ethnic colorations, religious differences and other divisive means designed to distract them from the real issues of governance.
He also urged the citizens to keep their hopes alive, adding that the New Nigeria everyone yearned for is within reach.
“This is not the nation we hope to bequeath to our children. We will build this nation, not upon the altar of the blood of our young people, but on their visions and aspirations,” Bakare said.
Speaking further, he said that no degree of brutal repression of protesters can overcome the desire of protests in the hearts and minds of the people.
To Bakare, any attempt to resolve the issues must go beyond the surface to excavate the underlying factors that led to the protest.
“Your bullets may drive them off the streets, but your bullets cannot pierce their spirits or puncture their resilience.
“Our overarching challenge is systemic governance failure which, over the decades, has worsened the living conditions of Nigerians. As a result, although the Special Anti-Robbery Squad has been disbanded, the spirit of SARS continues to prowl unchecked,” he said.
His remarks come five days after several people were killed and others injured after security operatives opened fire at #EndSARS protesters in Lekki.
Security operatives had stormed the scene of the protest on Tuesday night hours after the Lagos Government announced a 24-hour curfew and opened fire.
The action drew global condemnation both within the country and outside of Nigeria with the United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS calling for a thorough probe into the tragic shooting.
On Wednesday, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called for an end to police brutality in Nigeria, condemning violent clashes that claimed multiple lives and caused many injuries.
According to a communiqué issued by his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, the UN chief has been following recent developments in Nigeria and has called for an end to police brutality and abuses.
Similarly, Chairman of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, offered his sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
Mr Mahamat appealed to all political and social actors to reject the use of violence and respect human rights and the rule of law.
Pandemonium broke out in the Lekki Toll Gate Area of Lagos State on Tuesday as armed security personnel stormed the scene of the #EndSARS protests and opened fire at protesters.
Several are feared killed, while many others sustained gunshot wounds.
Some videos from eyewitnesses at the scene of the incident showed some persons bleeding seriously, while others tried to extract the bullets.
Others were seen administering CPR to some injured persons, to resuscitate them.
The incident comes hours after the Lagos State Government declared a 24-hour curfew as part of efforts to stop the violence which had broken out in some parts of the state by criminal elements who have been hijacking the protests.
Although the curfew was to commence at 4:00 pm, many were still seen protesting across the state.
At the Lekki Toll Gate which has been one of the major converging points, peaceful and unarmed protesters were still seen gathered in large numbers, hours after the curfew was to have commenced.
The situation, however, took a turn for the worse around 7:00 pm when the security operatives stormed the area and started shooting sporadically.
Some of the youths who were still at the scene of the incident at about 10:30pm told Channels Television that they were protesting peacefully when the armed security operatives came and opened fire at them.
“We were protesting peacefully after comedian, AY addressed us. There was nothing, we were still protesting peacefully. Then immediately, the street lights went off,” one of the protesters said on the News @ 10.
“People started shooting at us. We were able to recognise them, they were putting on uniform, they were military men, soldiers.
“We were lying down, waving our flags, telling them we are protesting peacefully, yet they were shooting directly at us.
The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu has appealed to the #EndSARS Protesters to give the government a chance to implement the reforms they are demanding.
He made the appeal in a statement he personally signed on Tuesday on the heels of the agitations by Nigerian youths against police brutality and violations of fundamental human rights.
“It is only fair that the government must be given the chance to implement the reforms demanded by the protesters. This can certainly not be done instantaneously by the waving of a magic wand,” the statement partly read.
“If the government had not implemented promised reforms in the past, the swiftness with which it has responded to the demands of the protesters this time around shows that there is a positive change by the government both of attitude and of a new sense of urgency.
“The protesters have made considerable gains within a very short period. But they should also be careful not to fritter away such gains due to lack of moderation and strategic thinking.
“For instance, it is unfortunate that hoodlums, thugs and assorted criminals have seized on the protests to perpetrate violence, disrupt civil life and harass, intimidate and assault innocent persons going about their lawful business,” he said.
SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:
‘#ENDSARS PROTESTS – THE REMEDY FOR NATIONAL MALADIES IS MORE, NOT LESS, DEMOCRACY’
For the past twelve days, our country has witnessed massive protests by youths in different cities, which were ignited by widespread disenchantment with the gross human rights abuses including torture, extortion, harassment, intimidation and even extra-judicial killings of Nigerians by members of the disbanded Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS). The demands for fundamental police reforms by the protesting youths are in pursuit of our aspiration in our national anthem “to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign”. Justice as one of our greatest writers has memorably noted is “the first condition of humanity”.
A society where those who are paid from the public purse to protect the lives and property of the people become themselves threats to the liberty, safety and dignity of the people; where human life is difficult to distinguish from the Thomas Hobbes ‘State of Nature – ‘solitary, poor, nasty and brutish’ is not one fit for free and decent people to live in. Such impunity and lawlessness are incompatible with the values and tenets of a democratic society governed by the supremacy of the rule of law.
It is impossible for anyone truly committed to the rule of law, democracy and good governance to be opposed to the concern and demands of the protesters. There is no way that any society can make meaningful progress without the enthronement of these values. The protesters have for the better part of the commencement of their civil action conducted themselves with an admirable sense of responsibility, restraint and maturity. This is commendable. Indeed, the high level of organization demonstrated by the protesting youths shows a new level of consciousness of the capability of a vigilant civil society as well as the efficacy of people’s power. This can only ultimately strengthen the country’s democratic evolution and sustainability.
Arnold Toynbee, the great 19th-century historian observed that societies progress through a process of ‘challenge and response’.
Society confronts challenges such as injustice, impunity, corruption, dictatorship and is forced to respond in resistance and struggle for emancipation. The result is the triumph of justice over injustice, liberty over tyranny and right over wrong thus enabling the society to be elevated to a higher level of good, accountable, responsible and responsive governance. It was through this process that colonialism, apartheid, and all forms of dictatorship, misrule and tyranny have been overcome across time and space. Our current democratic dispensation was borne of struggle in response to the challenge of military dictatorship.
The impunity of SARS was thus a challenge that the youth have responded positively and courageously to and has triggered the commencement of the fundamental reform of the country’s policing system.
But then, the protesters must admit that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has acted with commendable dispatch by not only scrapping SARS but also accepting the five-point demand that triggered the protests. This shows a laudable sensitivity to the grievances of the youths. It is only fair that the government must be given the chance to implement the reforms demanded by the protesters. This can certainly not be done instantaneously by the waving of a magic wand. If the government had not implemented promised reforms in the past, the swiftness with which it has responded to the demands of the protesters this time around shows that there is a positive change by the government both of attitude and of a new sense of urgency.
The protesters have made considerable gains within a very short period. But they should also be careful not to fritter away such gains due to lack of moderation and strategic thinking. For instance, it is unfortunate that hoodlums, thugs and assorted criminals have seized on the protests to perpetrate violence, disrupt civil life and harass, intimidate and assault innocent persons going about their lawful business. The intent of the organizers of the protests is to achieve stated objectives on police reform, which the government has in principle accepted. It can certainly not be their motive to cause generalized anarchy or effect regime change. If they give the impression that that is their goal, then any government will necessarily have to act with the requisite decisiveness and force to restore law and order and preserve the constitutional rule.
The vigour and vibrancy of the protests are an indication of the growing strength of the democratic culture in Nigeria. It is a demonstration of the beauty of democracy and its promotion and protection of people’s power. However, the protesters must be careful not to set the stage for the erosion or destruction of the same democratic process that gives them the freedom and right to protest in the first place. Their democratic right to protest must not be exercised in such a way that impedes the democratic right of other citizens to freedom of movement, expression and the liberty to pursue their livelihoods. The fight for police reforms is surely to promote and protect the wellbeing of millions of Nigerians. It is a contradiction for the protesters to act in ways that will further worsen the economic well-being of the very people they are fighting for.
It is important that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) utilize this protest as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and recommit itself to the values for which the party was formed through extraordinary hard work, dedication and commitment. There is no doubt that the party has recorded tremendous achievements in diverse sectors since 2015. But it now has to sit back, examine the gaps between its promises and its performance in order to make necessary amends. It is important that all members of the party put aside petty and shortsighted ambitions, needless infighting and unite to support the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to focus on delivering on its mandate for the remainder of its tenure.
In the final analysis, the cure for protracted and delicate national problems is to continue to strengthen the democratic process rather than engage in acts that can lead to generalized anarchy in which democracy cannot thrive. The protests have forcefully demonstrated the reality and potency of people’s power and the new energy must be tapped and channeled to strengthen, not weaken the country’s democracy. Surely, the country cannot remain the same after this. The government has demonstrated its sensitivity to the demands of the youth and must now be supported to implement the reforms it has committed itself to. It is a good sign that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Lagos and a number of other state governments have speedily set up judicial panels of inquiry into acts of police brutality over the years. I urge the state governments which are yet to do so to emulate this example. This process of change should be supported and this cannot be done in an atmosphere of endless protests that are also crippling an economy already enfeebled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let me commend all our religious leaders, Christians and Muslims for their patriotism and high sense of responsibility at this sensitive time. I appeal to them to call on their teeming followers to call off the protests for now and give peace a chance. Finally, I also strongly appeal to the protesters – YOU HAVE MADE YOUR POINT. GOVERNMENT HAS MADE ITS COMMITMENT TO YOU. PLEASE, PLEASE AND PLEASE, CALL OFF THE PROTESTS. GIVE GOVERNMENT A CHANCE TO IMPLEMENT YOUR DEMANDS. GOD BLESS YOU.
Tens of thousands of Thai pro-democracy protesters rallied across Bangkok Saturday, defying an emergency decree banning gatherings for a third consecutive day to demand the resignation of the prime minister and reform of the powerful monarchy.
Police had used water cannon against peaceful demonstrators on Friday but protestors said they were not cowed by the escalation in tactics.
“I’m concerned for my safety but if I don’t come out, I have no future,” said business student Min, 18, equipped with a helmet and gas mask as she arrived in Bangkok’s northern Lat Phrao district on Saturday, one of several protest venues across the city.
Flooding a massive intersection, protestors raised a three-finger salute adopted from the dystopian “Hunger Games” films as passing vehicles honked in support and flashed a thumbs-up at the mostly black-clad protesters.
Across the Chao Phraya river, thousands rallied in the western Wongwian Yai district chanting “Long live the people, down with dictatorship!”, while in southeastern Udomsuk protesters brought busy traffic to a standstill.
Carrying signs saying “Stop hurting people,” protesters in the three locales numbered in the tens of thousands at the peak, according to AFP reporters on the scene.
But police estimated a far lower turnout, putting the total crowd size at demonstrations across the capital at 16,000. Demonstrations also took place in more than a dozen cities across the country.
For the mostly-young protesters, Friday’s Bangkok crackdown was a big learning curve, said Aim, whose friends were blasted with stinging liquid when police fired water cannon.
“We had no armour, just umbrellas,” said the 25-year-old public servant, grasping a pair of goggles.
“I’m ready to fight,” said 20-year-old Tortor, carrying a backpack stuffed with a gas mask.
But unlike the previous day, police did not intervene and the protestors dispersed by 8:00pm as instructed by organisers, who vowed to “reunite again” Sunday.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha announced Friday an emergency decree banning gatherings of more than four people would be imposed for at least a month.
The former army chief, who masterminded a coup in 2014 before being voted into power last year in an election protesters say was rigged in his favour, also rebuffed calls for his resignation.
– ‘You’re a tyrant’ – At least 65 protesters have been arrested since Tuesday, Thai lawyers for Human Rights told AFP Saturday, as authorities escalated a crackdown on months of slowly building unrest.
The latest came Saturday night of prominent activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, who was arrested by plainclothes police after he left a rally at a Bangkok university.
Two other activists were arrested Friday under a rarely used law banning “violence against the queen” after they joined a group Wednesday that surrounded a royal motorcade carrying Queen Suthida, flashing a pro-democracy salute as the car drove by.
Both men, one of whom was released on bail Saturday, could face life in prison if convicted.
At least three protesters sustained slight injuries and five officers were admitted to the police hospital in Friday’s clashes, authorities said.
Activist Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree, released Saturday after his detention the night before, took to Facebook to condemn the use of violence against unarmed protesters.
“The government is no longer legitimate. Prayut Chan-O-Cha, you’re a tyrant,” he said in a livestreamed video.
The government insisted the use of force had been lawful to stop those trying to “create divisions” in the country.
“There was no victory or defeat for either side. It’s a defeat for all Thais,” government spokesman Anucha Burapanchaisri said in a statement.
– Royal reminder – The pro-democracy movement is making an unprecedented challenge to the kingdom’s powerful monarchy.
Protesters are demanding the abolition of a strict royal defamation law, which carries jail sentences of up to 15 years per charge, and for the monarchy to stay out of politics.
The institution currently wields enormous influence and is flanked by an arch-royalist military and billionaire clans.
Since ascending the throne in 2016, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has taken personal control of the palace’s vast fortune — worth an estimated $60 billion — and moved two army units under his direct command.
The king has yet to address the civil unrest directly, but during a ceremony broadcast on Friday, he told his subjects that Thailand “needs people who love the country, people who love the institution of the monarchy”.
The government insists the reforms to the royal family are off-limits, but this position was becoming untenable, said International Crisis Group analyst Matthew Wheeler.
“The degree of repression necessary to effectively reinstate the prohibition, including online, would tarnish both the government and the monarchy.”
The unrest in Thailand garnered worldwide interest, with “Mob October 17” — referring to the Bangkok protests — taking the number one hashtag globally on Saturday with almost three million tweets.
The Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, has warned all Police Officers across the country against the use of force on peaceful protesters.
According to a communique by the police spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, the IGP noted that citizens have fundamental rights of freedom of expression, assembly, and movement which must always be upheld and protected by the police.
The boss on Thursday however appealed to protesters to continually conduct themselves peacefully and guide their ranks against infiltration by criminal elements.
He stressed that the Force leadership has clearly heard the voice of the people and is irrevocably committed to doing everything within its powers to address the observed ills, punish any offending officers and promote a people-friendly police force.
Singer, David Adeleke, popularly called Davido has presented the demands of the #EndSARS protesters to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The demands, according to him include the release of the protesters, justice for all victims of police brutality, among others.
“Our five demands include the immediate release of all arrested protesters. We thank God everybody was released in Abuja yesterday, there are still some people arrested in Lagos.
“Secondly, they want justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families. Out of everything, this is the most important because if there is reform, you cannot change a life that has been lost.
“Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconducts within 10 days. It is impossible to do anything within 10 days, but it is something that should be looked at,” he said.
Davido equally for a psychological evaluation of all officers of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) before redeployment, stressing that the training and retraining of police personnel are important.
On his part, the IGP thanked Davido for the visit, explaining that reports of brutality and infringement of human rights by SARS operatives issue date back to 2017.
According to him, the step taken by the police authorities was to reform the unit to make it more responsive to tackling security challenges.
Adamu explained that this is the first time the squad will be disbanded following numerous outcry from Nigerians, notable youths.
“The activities of SARS have been an issue since 2017. All that the police authorities did was to reform the unit so that it will be more responsive to the society,” he said.
“Changes came up and we still have challenges. This is the first time that a decisive decision. We have never done this before, it has always been reform.”
Belarusian protesters on Sunday prepared a new mass demonstration against strongman Alexander Lukashenko who has refused to quit after a disputed re-election and turned to Russia for help.
Unprecedented protests broke out in the ex-Soviet country after Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for 26 years, claimed re-election with 80 percent of the vote on August 9.
Opposition rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya says she has won the vote but Lukashenko’s security forces have detained thousands of protesters, many of whom accused police of beatings and torture.
Several people have died in the crackdown but Belarusians have been demonstrating across the country for nearly a month, with more than 100,000 people flooding the streets of the capital Minsk for three straight weekends.
Dozens of people including student protesters and journalists covering rallies were detained this week.
On Saturday, around 4,000 people took to the streets and more than 90 people were detained, the interior ministry said.
– ‘Strong when united’ –
Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political novice, urged supporters to turn up for Sunday’s “March of Unity” set to begin at 1100 GMT.
“Remember we are strong as long as we are united,” she said in a short video address.
Tikhanovskaya contested the election after her blogger husband was jailed and barred from running along with several other prominent Lukashenko critics.
She left Belarus under pressure from authorities and took shelter in EU member Lithuania.
On Friday, Tikhanovskaya addressed a meeting of the UN Security Council by video link, calling for sanctions against those responsible for the alleged electoral fraud and rights violations.
The Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have blacklisted Lukashenko and 29 high-ranking officials in his administration but other members of the EU bloc appear reluctant to target the Belarus strongman personally.
Russia has said it will respond to any Western attempts to “sway the situation” and President Vladimir Putin has raised the possibility of sending military support.
Putin has been keen to unify Russia and Belarus, and Moscow has accompanied its recent offers of economic and military aid with calls for tighter integration.
Lukashenko has in the past ruled out outright unification and sought to play Moscow against the West but his options now are limited.
On Thursday, Lukashenko hosted Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and replaced the chief of the KGB security service in what some analysts said might have been done under pressure from Moscow.
The moustachioed leader said Russia and Belarus had agreed on issues they “could not agree earlier” and he planned to “dot all the i’s” with Putin in Moscow in the next few weeks.
Lukashenko made headlines when he claimed during a meeting with Mishustin that his security forces had intercepted German calls showing that Putin foe Alexei Navalny’s poisoning with a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent had been faked.
Belarusian state television broadcast the “intercept” in which a Mike in Warsaw and Nick in Berlin discuss Navalny’s materials and call Lukashenko a “tough nut to crack.”
Social media in Russia went berserk in mocking the Belarus leader and even some staunchly pro-Kremlin propagandists expressed embarassment.
Lukashenko also raised eyebrows last month when he brandished an assault rifle and had his 15-year-old son Nikolai appear next to him in a bulletproof vest while also weilding a weapon.
Some observers say Lukashenko wanted to curry favour with Moscow but was becoming a liability.
“No one knows what intercept Alexander Grigoryevich (Lukashenko) will record and publish tomorrow and where he will run with an assault rifle,” wrote Kirill Martynov, politics editor at independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
Over a dozen of anti-lockdown protesters were arrested Saturday in Melbourne, as those deliberately flouting stay-at-home orders clashed with Australian police.
Ignoring official warnings and public health orders, several hundred people gathered at an illegal protest — promoted by several virus-related conspiracy theory groups online — calling for an end to lockdown measures.
A huge police presence responded, arresting 17 as the crowd chanted “freedom” and “scam” towards lines of officers who repeatedly attempted to move people on.
Two protesters were seen raising their arms in a Nazi salute at officers and yelling “Heil Dan”, comparing the state of Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews to Adolf Hitler, while standing on the forecourt of the Shrine of Remembrance — a war memorial which partly commemorates Australians killed fighting in World War II.
Demonstrators moved to a nearby park before being surrounded by police and eventually dispersing.
Officers said they issued 160 fines for breaching health orders and were expecting to hand out more in the coming days.
Several attendees told AFP they were protesting the government’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 865,000 people around the world, labelling it overblown or an outright “scam”.
“We are in a city where the cure from Daniel Andrews is actually worse than what’s happening,” protester Fiona Kat said.
The “Freedom Day” events were largely promoted by several loosely-connected groups online that espouse anti-vaccination and virus-related conspiracy theories.
Rallies were also held around the country, with 14 people arrested at protests in Sydney and Byron Bay.
Despite Victoria’s second wave, Australia has dealt relatively well with the virus allowing the rest of the country to roll back restrictions.
The nation has recorded over 26,200 cases and 748 deaths in a population of 25 million.
Before the protest, Victorian premier Andrews told people to stay home and warned the gathering could jeopardise a path out of lockdown, which is expected to be outlined on Sunday.
“It is not safe, it is not smart, it is not lawful,” he told media.
Bulgarian police and protesters clashed on Wednesday as parliament met to begin discussion on a new constitution aimed at appeasing weeks of anti-government rallies.
Demonstrators have been blocking roads and staging daily rallies in the capital Sofia and other cities for almost two months.
They are pressing for the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev over their perceived links with behind-the-scenes oligarchs.
Borisov has already sacked several key ministers and recently proposed adopting a new constitution, but the protesters have dismissed these moves.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of central Sofia Wednesday, shouting “Resign” and “Mafia”, and throwing rocks, eggs and tomatoes.
Police used pepper spray and tear gas and said they arrested eight protesters, while 20 officers were injured in clashes outside parliament.
Sixteen people, including protesters, were admitted to hospital, according to emergency services.
The clashes came as parliament began its autumn session, which is expected to discuss the government’s proposal for a new constitution.
In a statement inside parliament, President Rumen Radev, who has voiced support for the protesters’ demands, called on lawmakers to “emerge from the crisis with dignity” by paving the way for early elections.
“Confidence is definitely lost,” he said.
Borisov, in power almost without interruption for more than a decade, has so far refused to resign before his third term expires in March next year.
Analysts have dismissed the conservative premier’s proposal for a new constitution as an attempt to win time and cling to office.
Activists too have slammed it for failing to improve the accountability of the chief prosecutor — an issue long highlighted by Bulgarian and international observers as well as the European Court of Human Rights — while trying to limit the rights of the president.
Debates in parliament on whether to adopt a new constitution can take months.
Thirteen years after joining the EU, Bulgaria remains its poorest and most graft-ridden member, according to Transparency International’s corruption perception index.
Protesters were set to rally in Bangkok Sunday against the government as tensions rose in the kingdom after the arrest of three activists leading the pro-democracy movement.
Thailand has seen near-daily demonstrations for the past month by student-led groups denouncing Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha — a former military chief who led the 2014 coup — and his pro-establishment administration.
Prominent student leader Parit Chiwarak, bailed a day after his arrest Friday night, vowed to attend Sunday’s rally at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument.
“We will not disappoint you,” he told a crowd of supporters outside the police station after he was released.
Organisers expect thousands to participate. Hundreds of police personnel were seen at the venue before the scheduled start of the protest.
The protesters, partly inspired by the Hong Kong democracy movement, claim to be leaderless, and have relied mostly on social media campaigns to draw support across the country.
The hashtag “Give a deadline to dictatorship” and “Tag your friends to protest” started trending early Sunday on Twitter in Thailand.
The protesters are demanding an overhaul of the government and a rewrite of the 2017 military-scripted constitution, which demonstrators believe skewed last year’s poll in the favour of Prayut’s military-aligned party.
A rally last week — attended by some 4,000 demonstrators — also called for the abolition of a law protecting Thailand’s unassailable monarchy, and for a frank discussion about the royal institution’s role in Thailand.
Super-rich King Maha Vajiralongkorn sits at the apex of Thai power, flanked by the military and the kingdom’s billionaire business elite.
The draconian “112” law can see those convicted sentenced to up to 15 years in jail for each charge.
– Growing discontent –
The growing boldness of the pro-democracy movement has angered the pro-royalist camp.
On Sunday, some 50 royalist protesters carrying portraits of the king gathered at the Democracy Monument — the same venue where the anti-government rally will take place later in the day.
“Long live the king,” shouted the royalists, dressed in yellow shirts — the king’s colours.
The day before student leader Parit’s arrest, Prayut said the protesters’ demands were “unacceptable” for the country’s majority, calling the pro-democracy movement “risky”.
He struck a more conciliatory tone in a televised speech later in the day, appealing for unity and saying the “future belongs to the young”.
Thailand has long seen a cycle of violent protests and coups, with the arch-royalist army staging more than a dozen putsches since the end of absolutism in 1932.
The growing discontent also comes as the kingdom goes through one of its worst economic periods since 1997 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Millions have been left jobless, and the crisis has exposed the inequalities in the Thai economy, which is perceived to benefit the elite, pro-military establishment.