Three of Belarus Free Theatre’s ‘Studio Fortinbras’ students were arrested and fined for “holding an unauthorised mass event” when they dressed as police officers with rainbow epaulettes for a public performance addressing homophobia on November 28, 2018.
“These arrests are completely disproportionate to the supposed offense and an indication of the Belarusian authorities’ determination to clamp down on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” Belarus Free Theatre said in a statement to Freemuse on 13 December.
“These arrests are meant to intimidate us and all human rights defenders and ordinary citizens into silence and to remind us that the police and the laws in Belarus are not there to protect the people but to protect the state from its own citizens.
“However, we will not be silenced and will continue to call out human rights violations, wherever they happen.”
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Minsk, Belarus. Today we deconstruct the image of a policeman and turn fear into love. Anyone can be #LGBT and often LGBT need protection from out homophobic society. That's why we showed the police good example and created a special department for LGBT rights ourselves. #belarusfreetheatre #fortinbras #lgbtfriendly #makelovenotwar
One of the students was arrested on 8 December. He spent three nights in detention without food or water before being found guilty of staging an unauthorised mass event and fined 15 basic values (equivalent to about 150 euros) by a court in Minsk, according to Ministry of Counterculture and Belarus Free Theatre.
The other two students, who had been in hiding, were arrested on 11 December.
They were detained overnight and on 12 December Judge Victoria Shabunya found them guilty of holding an unauthorised mass event and fined them 150 euros, reported Ministry of Counterculture.
Do support the brave people of Belarus Free Theatre who are standing up on behalf of #LGBTQI rights in the face of the most extreme provocation, intimidation, victimisation, arrest and violence. A retweet at least would be a welcome act of solidarity
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) December 11, 2018
The trio attend Belarus Free Theatre’s Studio Fortinbras in Minsk. They and other students held five performances in a week of support for the local LGBT community.
“Thank you all for solidarity these days. All students now released. By judging this artistic stunt as ‘unauthorised mass event’, the police lived up to the ‘intimidator-image’ the students attempted to deconstruct. Bravo !” Belarus Free Theatre tweeted on 14 December.
It’s not the first time Studio Fortinbras students have been fined for artistic performances this year.
In July, three students who placed rainbow-coloured footprints and pots of flowers at the base of a policeman statue outside the Ministry of Internal Affairs were each fined 73.5 rubles (about 31.5 euros) for disobeying police. Read more here.