Russia's new weapon for crowd control

Umbrellas for batons as Russian plain clothed officers attempt to control crowds during May Day commemorations.

by

    We headed out onto Moscow's streets, joining the tens of thousands of May Day marchers, with little concern for our safety.

    After all, this workers' rally happens every year and the opposition had decided to delay their anti-Putin protest for the eve of his inauguration next week.

    So no need for tear gas masks or stab vests. 

    Cameraman Andrey weaved his way through the marchers, trying to get to the front where we had heard President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had joined the procession.

    My producer Yulia and I followed him through the melee, laden down with extra camera kit.

    But as we passed from one trade union crowd to the next group, a line of plain clothed men who were walking ahead blocked our path.

    Andrey had got through and was forging on ahead so we pleaded with them to let us pass: "We're journalists. We need to be with our cameraman." 

    But they weren't having any of it. We were to walk at the same speed as the marchers, no faster.

    As I tried to move around this human barricade, one of these rather aggressive characters shouted in my face, as another pulled out his weapon of choice and whacked me with it.

    Thankfully, he'd left his baton at home - it was just an umbrella. 

    Eventually someone saw sense and let us pass. 

    Ten minutes later, further along the march, we moved to the side of the human procession to pull out a microphone to interview some of the crowd.

    A man pushed through the police line guarding the route, swearing and cursing at us - using very rude Russian swear words that have no translation.

    We weren't allowed to stop. We had to keep moving. He hustled Andrey and pushed me. This time we weren't walking fast enough.

    Old habits die hard in this country.


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