In sharp contrast to the crackdown on May 21 land protests, Kazakh police stayed put and did not break another unauthorised rally a few days after, which this time was a pro-government one.
A group of activists held an unsanctioned rally on May 31 in front of the US consulate in Almaty in support for the government and as a protest against marches that were held in New York and San Francisco, in a show of solidarity for those detained on May 21. The Kazakh authorities justified the fact that there were no arrests because protesters stopped their rally as soon as they were asked to.
That wasn’t the case a few days earlier, when Kazakh police reacted heavy-handedly to an attempt to hold unauthorised peaceful rallies on May 21 in various cities in the country against amendments to the Land Code that would see entities with foreign involvement be able to buy farmland and foreigners be able to lease it for 25 years. As a result, over 1,000 people were detained with about 40 made answerable for administrative offence. Authorities claimed the land protests on May 21 were an attempted coup d’etat and said they had opened criminal cases.
Interestingly, the pro-government event was organised by “Let’s Leave Housing for the People” group that campaigns for the country’s struggling holders of foreign-currency mortgages. That has some suggesting they may have been induced into rallying for the government in return for getting favourable conditions for restructuring their debts.
The interior ministry said on June 2 that about 10 people from the “Let’s Leave Housing for the People” had not been arrested like the land protesters because they stopped their protest at first demand by local officials. “According to the existing legislation, (…) protesting citizens should stop their illegal actions at the first demand by representatives of a local executive body or prosecutors and only in case of refusal police take necessary measures,” the ministry explained. No-one was made answerable for administrative offence because they stopped their protests upon local prosecutors’ demand. For some reason this provision of the Kazakh legislation did not apply to people trying to hold a rally on May 21.
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