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Black Panthers in St Petersburg

Foreign students in St Petersburg have stated that they will attempt to resolve the problem of racist attacks in the city by hiring private detectives to gather evidence against Petersburg neo-Nazis and extremists. But they have also threatened to gather the forces of the Black Panthers should this route fail. African unity, the association that unites the foreign students of Saint Petersburg, warned Russian authorities about possible reprisals against the murders and attacks that have been carried out in St Petersburg. Nine foreigners, all students at the Institute of Higher Education, have been killed since September 2005. All nine deaths have been categorized as murder on the grounds of race. But in spite of promises from high-ranking officials that the situation would be dealt with by the national security, defense and law enforcement agencies, the number of crimes involving foreign students has not decreased.

On Tuesday evening around 2,000 members of African unity and supporters of the antifascist movement marched through the center of St Petersburg. On Wednesday the organization asked the governor of St Petersburg, Valentina Matviyenko, for protection:

They are killing us! Petersburg is awash with neo-Nazism and xenophobia. They insult us: men and women, adults and children. We will base our own response on what we hear from you.

In an open letter, foreign students invited Matviyenko to recall that the number of attacks on people of non-Slavic appearance in the city only increased during the time of her governorship. "Friends call me from abroad and ask, what are the Russians doing? Why are they not outraged by what is happening? Why dont they take to the streets? said one representative of African unity, Ali Nassor. The state must protect us, but it is clearly not doing so at present. However, when we begin to protest on the streets, the authorities assure us that everything is ok ".

"Putin, when he took power, was quick to introduce business reforms. If Putin wanted to, he could restore peace and dismantle the extremist groups with a single edict, stated the chairman of the Nigerian Association Andre Suber. But the authorities dont want to do this! And if the state does not take serious measures to provide for our safety, we will begin to protect ourselves".

Black Panthers could appear on the streets of St Petersburg", he added, referring to the radical organization of black Americans active in the 1960s and 70s. "But we dont want to take any extreme measures, added Suber. However he later stated, with regret, that African Unity had posted men to act as guards in the hostels of foreign students, although no violence was reported.

Students have been discussing the possibility of using radical methods of self-defense for several months. After the murder of an African student at the end of 2005, the slogan "Fascists, you woke the Black Panthers!" was used in a meeting in the center of town. But despite this, representatives of the foreign students of St Petersburg stated on "gazete.Ru" that they do not want to start a war with the inhabitants of St Petersburg. "We need answers from the city authorities and from the Russian state. We attain assurances but what we require is the fulfillment of these written commitments", stated one student.

At present foreign students are still intent on gathering evidence against the racists and extremists of Petersburg. African unity is working with a St Petersburg law firm to create a legal coordination center. This center will study the information and documents collected, on the basis of which law-enforcement agencies can bring criminal charges against the members of extremist organizations and groups within St Petersburg. One of the methods for collecting such information will be the use of private detectives. "Observing legal boundaries the detectives will work to expose the sources of danger, gather evidence and transfer it to the competent authorities", explained a representative of the legal firm Alexander Belov. According to Belov, several African peoples associations in St Petersburg, including that of Senegal, had already turned to private detective agencies.

The need to act has become increasingly urgent as in recent years 20 April, Hitlers birthday, has been seen to usher in a wave of violence against people of nonslavic appearance. The victim of the first 20 April attack in 1995, Armenian Ali Hassor, spoke about his experiences since that time: "Since then almost every year extremists groups are active in these days of April. Only in the past year has it been possible to avoid these attacks ", he noted. But, according to a representative of one African association, African nationals obtain no special recommendations for this date. "We cannot advise them to be more careful, they are already so careful. We cannot forbid them to walk on the streets or to be in public places. Their protection is the task of the authorities ". However a representative of people from the North Caucasus, Sofia Kozdova, noted that children from their community "do not go to school on April 20 and do not walk on the streets. Many members of our association also refrain from doing these things.

Source: www.gazeta.ru


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