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09/04/02 . . . SEU News . RUSSIA  
For more than two weeks protests against the building of a McDonald's restaurant are going on in the historical center of the city of Voronezh. Local citizens together with the representatives of environmental, political and social organizations are taking part in the protest actions.  

McDonalds is supposed to be built on the place of the only park in the city center. On the 14th of March 2002 'Stop McDonalds' Committee was formed during the first public meeting against the building of McDonalds on the place of city park.

The protesters' demand:
1. Stop the building of McDonalds! This project does not take into account the opinion of the citizens, and violates many regulations about the building of such objects.
2. Reconstruct the park as a historical place of Voronezh.

In Spring 2001 McDonalds Corporation acting through the false firm has bought the right of the land-lease for the building of four fast-food restaurants, one of them was supposed to be built in the historical center of the city. Sale of the right for land-lease was carried out with many breaks, which was confirmed by the city prosecutor's department. Despite of the city regulations and the opinion of the citizens the administration of the city permitted the building of restaurant in the park.

Blockade of the building process lasted for five days and on the 25th of March, the six day of the blockade, it was stopped by the active intervention of the police and administration of the city. The blockade went on since March 20, activists organized daily duty in the park and did not allow the builders to start their work, staying under the basket of excavator and taking apart the fence around the park. On the morning conference Voronezh major A. Kovalev, with red and angry face, shouted that the building should be continued in spite of the protest, which involved several deputies of the Regional Parliament, and that he was going to organize the ceremonial beginning of the building together with the main city architect.

Instead of the promised ceremony the police regiment arrived in the park and pushed the protesters away from the building machines. Local citizens reminded to the police, that in this park two police officers were killed by the criminals ten years ago, and that McDonalds could not be a good memorial to them. Two hours later police arrested four participants of the protest for 'participating non-sanctioned meeting'.

"If this is called 'non-sanctioned meeting', about 200 people participated in it together with us including bureaucrats from the city administration, - said one of the arrested activists, Svetlana Dorokhova. - It seems that if you support the building of McDonalds then your participation is sanctioned, if you are against then you break an order in the city." Next day the local court made the decision that three activists of the Stop McDonalds committee were not guilty.

Beside of it, about 20 paint-artists were already left without place for selling their pictures as they were thrown out of the park, and more than 10 beautiful old trees were sawed off in the park. On 29th of March "Stop McDonalds" Committee organized the street party, musicians from Voronezh and several other cities played for free near the park to protect it. On the 3rd of April activists attended the exhibition of architecture projects, where the project of McDonalds was presented, and spoiled the opening ceremony, staying near mayor, head of the region and the city main architect in the T-shirts with STOP MCDONALDS slogan, and distributing the invitations to the meeting against the building. Later they were removed from the exhibition by the police 'for wearing wrong clothes'.

During the actions activists collected more than 1000 signatures against the building of McDonalds. After distributing call-for-solidarity letter we received more than 50 letters of support (and the city administration received the letters of protest) from France, Canada, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Russia and USA. Activists from Nizhniy Novgorod supported us with two pickets of McDonalds restaurants in their city. 'Stop McDonalds' Committee is not going to stop its activity, the struggle is going on.

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