Police Impose Order on Embassy Protesters
Police on Friday put a halt to the barrage of bottles and eggs hurled at the U.S. Embassy by people angry over the bombing of Serbia. But demonstrations continued, and police presence remained heavy.
Two policemen were hurt and 118 people have been arrested on charges of hooliganism in the two days of protest at the embassy, police said.
The protesters on Thursday had left the embassy facade a spattered mess, covered with paint, beer and egg debris. But police, who heavily outnumbered the demonstrators, took a more restrictive approach Friday.
Hundreds of elite OMON police ringed the building and kept the crowd several meters back on the sidewalk.
But otherwise the scene was the same: several hundred people, many of them young, chanting and holding up signs, some with obscene slogans referring to U.S. President Bill Clinton and his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Motorists honked their horns in apparent sympathy as they passed on the busy Garden Ring.
More demonstrations, by the Communists and their National Patriotic Salvation Front, were scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday. There were also protests at the German and British embassies, and at the U.S. missions in Toronto, where five people were arrested, and Athens, where riot police dispersed demonstrators with fire hoses and tear gas.
For some, the demonstration seemed as much social as political.
"We're not protesting, we're hanging out," said Oleg Shestakov, eyeing the demonstration from its edge. Shestakov, a student at the People's Friendship University, drove up to the protest with a handful of smartly dressed friends.
Students turned out from at least four institutes, some accompanied by their teachers, to mix with a few holdouts from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and other political groups who had come out to fly their banners.
An older man with a bullhorn wandered through the crowd, whipping them up.
"Students and teachers!" the man barked. "We won't let the Americans bomb Yugoslavia!"
"Noooooooo!" the students shouted.
"Let Russia abandon all agreements with NATO!"
"Yeah!" the students responded, less certainly.
"We must not consider the START II treaty! We'll need those missiles! They must be modernized and left in place!"
The students lost interest until he called for objections.
"Noooooo!" they shouted, fired up again.
The embassy tried to maintain normal operations but sent some employees home and closed some sections early, said spokesman Michael Hurley. A note has been posted warning the staff to take common-sense precautions.
"There were fewer people available, but business was going as normal as possible in a situation when we have to keep an eye on the crowd and cooperate with the Russian police at the same time," said Hurley, adding, "People have the right to stage such protests."
He said employees didn't feel besieged and that he went out for lunch at his normal time.
Another embassy employee shrugged it off. "We are used to it," he said. "There is always somebody demonstrating out here."
Vladimir Zubkov, the Moscow police spokesman, said one policeman received a blow to the eyebrow and another one's neck artery was cut by a tossed bottle. While the first man was released from the hospital on the same day, the other one remained in intensive care Friday, Zubkov said.
Adding to the hassle was the decision by one of Moscow's radio stations to air the embassy phone number. The result: non-stop calls from zealous elderly Communists, Orthodox activists and retired officers all berating America for what is viewed as aggression against the Serbs.
Some callers, however, apologized for the actions of the demonstrators.
Several hundred protesters also gathered in front of the British Embassy across the Moscow river from the Kremlin but dispersed by the early afternoon.
The British embassy's press attache described the demonstration as "loud... but peaceful." There was damage to the building, except for some blue paint splashed on the gates' Wednesday night.
"There was an increased sense of awareness and alertness because of the possibility of the demonstration getting out of hand," the spokesman said. "We expect this outpouring to be directed at buildings" rather than people, he said.
Things have been quiet at the German Embassy since a small protest Wednesday. A swastika was painted on a building opposite the embassy in the early hours of Thursday morning. An embassy spokesman said, "I don't see any necessity to worry."