Ice cream politics: flash mob in Belarus
October 3rd, 2006

Andy Carvin reported on the political use of a flash mob in Belarus, where young people defied the authoritarian government’s ban on political demonstrations by assembling….to eat ice cream:

Veronica Khokhlova of Global Voices recently posted a blurb about a group of young people in Belarus who were arrested for organizing an ice cream social.

For those of you who don’t follow eastern European affairs, Belarus is one of the most authoritarian states of the former Soviet bloc, shutting down independent media and quashing all forms of public protest. Yet a determined group of Internet-savvy young people are pushing back by organizing gatherings through the use of flash mobs. A flash mob is a sudden, seemingly spontaneous activity planned through rapid transmission of announcements over the Internet, SMS text messaging and other communication devices. In many countries, flash mobs are often seen as communal practical jokes or even performance art, with hordes of participants suddenly showing up in a public place, doing something irreverent, then vanishing without a trace.

In Belarus, young people are employing flash mobs to push the boundaries of what the government will tolerate in terms of free assembly. Last Friday, flash mobbers descended upon a public square in the capital Minsk to gather together and eat ice cream. No rally, no speeches, no sit-in nor march – just standing around and eating ice cream:

minskmob2.jpg

If this were almost any other country in the world, standing around eating ice cream wouldn’t even cause the local authorities to bat an eyelash. In Belarus, though, it was treated as an organized public assembly, so plainclothes government agents broke up the event, arresting some of the young participants.


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