Anja is 19 years old, when she sees her mother among those waiting, she rushes into her arms, and for a long time they stand silently, with tears in their eyes. The women was detained on August 12 near her home in the shopping center “Riga”. A riot police officer grabbed Anja as she was returning home. She saw a column of trucks ahead of her and decided to wait for them to pass.
- A police van left the yard and they started shooting rubber bullets at us. The people who just stood there – the woman is still shivering from these memories. – I started running away, they shot me in the back, I fell down, and right next to my face drove a police truck. Somehow I got up, ran into the bushes, and that’s where OMON got me. They dragged me across the asphalt, so I ended up in a police truck with men. They were beaten up very badly. And when we were brought into a bus near the Stela-Memorial , everyone was lined up and hit with a stick. It was awful.
According to Anja, on the first day they didn´t get food at all. Then they were given water and some bread, that’s all. She confirms, like many others, that men were beaten at night.
- The screams stand all night. It’s impossible… And it’s the hardest. Men lay in the yard in the cold, they were poured with ice water and beaten. If the cops in the isolator ward were more or less ok, the OMON officers feelt as if they’re under something,” says the women, and her parents listen with horror to this story. – There were 30 of us in a four-person cell. We were sleeping on the bed, under the bed, on the table and under the table. And the first day we slept outside on concrete.
Anja was tried directly at the prison, she doesn’t remember the judge’s name.
- I was read out some rights, a place of detention, where I wasn’t even there. As if I was on Pushkinskaya, waving glowing sticks and shouting “Stop, cockroach!”. I didn’t sign the protocol – they gave me 11 days, – that’s how Anja describes the trial.
Every day parents looked for their daughter in Okresin, went to the isolation ward Zhodino. Everything that the police could say in a day: Anja was detained, but where – such information was not provided to relatives.
- We were not allowed to make calls, they said: “Fuck you, we won’t give you anything” – this is how the prison staff reacted to the request to call home.
On Thursday night, the women who were in Anja’s cell were taken out and it was said, “something needs to be reviewed”. The woman told her she had been detained, and at 20.30 she was allowed to call her family. That’s how the family ended up in Okrestin. After hugging Anja, her parents put her in a car and took her home.
“They were beating me and ask what I don’t like about the country.”
If before one o’clock in the morning men were released three or four times, then after that they began to go out in small groups. One had no sleeve on his shirt, the other had a bruise under his eye. The guy, looking like 16-18 years old, looks confused, no one close to him at Okrestin, a volunteer immediately runs up to him and stretches out the phone. He makes a call. He refuses the offer to talk at once. Like many adult men.
- Have you been beaten up?
- What do you think? – And when you look at him, you know: Beaten and beaten hard.
Many people don’t want to talk about violence, they’re scared. And if you know the details of all humiliation, this behavior is understandable. Men were beaten, threatened with criminal cases, mocked and abused. Two friends who wouldn’t like to appear in the media and show their faces, but are ready to show the stun gun marks and beatings, say, “they were beaten”.
- On Wednesday night we were in the Zavodsky district, got in the car, drove away, but people in helmets threatened us with weapons, and we had to stop. We were pulled out of the car and loaded into a bus, says the guy to TUT.BY, who is limping, and says I have to go to X-ray tomorrow. What happened to his leg is unclear, and he also stretches out his swollen arm from the beating.
- Where were you beaten?
- Right in the car, with batons, hands and they used teaser. Shall I show you? – The guy lifts his shirt up, and there’s the discharge marks. Then he turns his back on us, lifts up his shorts, and there are black and blue marks. From multiple hits.
- Did these people say anything to you when they beat you?
How long the beating lasted, the friends can’t say for sure: “They beat you until you are done.” Six people were beaten up. Later, in the isolation ward, the friends saw the protocol. According to the young people, many had the same formulation. They refused to sign it. But they were forced to sign the document: if they take part in the action again – it’s already a criminal case.
- Did they explain to you why they were released?
- They said the Minister of the Interior was here. We didn’t see him.
Vadim, 32 years old. He is one of those who left the prison building after 1 a.m., although time in this place seems to be no longer of any use. When we meet him, he is already sitting at the gates of the prison on the curb surrounded by volunteers and someone else’s family. With thin long fingers, the young man holds a glass of warm tea. Later he will tell us that he was detained on the night of August 9-10. He ate nothing until the night of 13-14. The guy didn’t go on hunger strike, he refused to eat. He wanted to get sick and have an ambulance take him out of the prison. But his body was able to take it.
Vadim wants to talk to the journalists himself, he wants to, but he’s very afraid. Many people who leave the building are afraid to communicate. “It’s better not to”, “I would love to, but I can’t” – my colleague and I hear such answers over and over again. “Why not?”, “Who forbid to talk?” – we specify, in return – silence, tired eyes and once – a smile.
- Let’s not talk here, – Vadim speaks to me q bit lost when I sit next to him. – I’ll move to the side and you can follow me because here are cameras.
We’re going a few meters away. Vadim says they detained him on the street while he and his friends were walking.
- You can cover for me,” he confusedly interrupts our conversation and addresses the young men who are standing next to him. – Stay with your back to us so I don’t get caught in the camera.
In 17 minutes of the interview, he will feel like he’s being followed more than once.
- When we were brought to the prison and the door of the police truck opened, the OMON troops stood in a row. You run in a column, and you just get hit on the left and right. That’s their fun,” says the young man, replacing “we” with “you,” as if he wanted to get away from the whole story. – Yelling, “Hurry up, b…” The atmosphere is as if an aggressive drunk man starts beating up in his apartment relatives. Then they put us against the wall, and for about two or three hours we were standing in a half-seat. Why did we stand there for long? Because as i understood there was a crowded space. Then they put us in a ” trap” – that’s four walls and a grid. It was 3:00 a.m.
According to Vadim, any demands in the prison were met with aggression and physical violence.
- If you start demanding something from them, they start hitting,” Vadim said. He was silent, he wasn’t touched. – But these are human demands. The first two days we were not fed, people shouted: “I want to eat”. Someone in the next cell after two days, apparently, gave up their nerves. They knocked insistently, “Let go, we’re hungry.” Then we heard them getting beat up. In my cell, everyone was quiet. They were adults, some over 50, they didn’t suffer from youthful maximalism.
Life in the cell, continues Vadim, can be described in four words: “just sit and wait. Because it’s full, “you can’t sleep or lie down.”
- At one point a man was brought to us [Vadim realized that it was one of the newcomers], his jeans were covered in blood. He said it was the blood of his beaten friend. The second man, who was imprisoned, was spitting blood on us,” Vadim said.
- Did you have a trial?
- Consider, I wasn’t here at all,” said Vadim. – There was no trial, nothing. I was turned in, closed, and now I’m out.
- Maybe I should take you home. – Vadim was offered help.
He refused. Said he wanted to stay outside the prison building with the people standing here.