Sunday, almost 200,000 people marched in the Belarusian capital of Minsk as part of widespread demonstrations against last week's sham re-election of authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko, AKA "Europe's last dictator."

Protesters waved flags and demanded Lukashenko “go away" and “resign." There was even a banner reading, “Hague, Take Him."

From Euronews:

"Today is historic for our country. There are a lot of people in the streets and I am proud of my country," said 21-year-old Ivan, who attended the march in Minsk.

"I do not think that Lukashenko has a long time left. Because there has never been such big support against him. This is history. And I don't think that he will be able to cope with it," he added.

We've documented the ways Lukashenko is a thin-skinned despot desperate to hold onto power, sort of like America's current president, Donald Trump, who we're committed to ensuring serves just four years instead of Lukashenko's 26.

Lukashenko seemed very Trump-like when he addressed the 50,000 or so supporters who turned out for him Sunday. He told them he wouldn't hold another vote and vowed to stand firm against the oppressive forces of democracy.

"NATO troops are at our gates. Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and our native Ukraine are ordering us to hold new elections," Lukashenko. "I have never betrayed you and will never do so."

Rigging elections to remain in office seems like a betrayal, but Lukashenko and Trump share similar delusions of grandeur. They are heroes in their own twisted minds.

One of his supporters was quoted as suggesting protesters have “suddenly forgotten" all the good things Lukashenko has done: There's order, “peace," and few people go hungry. Unfortunately, there's no freedom of speech, recognition of human rights, and tolerance for opposition. Lukashenko has also bungled the country's COVID-19 response with his unscientific, know-nothing approach to the pandemic. Belarus has at least 68,166 confirmed cases, and 571 people have died. Put in context: Belarus has a population of around 10 million, roughly equal to the state of Georgia, where there are at least 220,165 confirmed cases and 4,600 deaths. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is actually worse at COVID-19 management but about the same when it comes to “overseeing" an election he's personally competing in.

The protests against Lukashenko have grown into a general strike. Thousands of factory workers have walked off the job and joined the demonstrations. Even employees at state broadcaster BT have had enough and gone on strike. Monday morning, the Belarus 1 TV channel debuted its new show, "Empty Studio With Music Playing In The Background."

It's hard to imagine a scenario where Fox News isn't airing fresh content bashing protesters. Laura Ingraham's and Sean Hannity's contracts probably dictate they are buried alive with Trump, like the servants of Egyptian pharaohs.

The media has even started calling Lukashenko “embattled," because whenever he goes places now, people yell at him and tell him how much he sucks. He was heckled this morning during a visit to the the state-owned MZKT military vehicles factory. He reportedly looked “shaken" as workers called him a liar and demanded he go away already.

From the Guardian:

"You are talking about unfair elections and want to hold fair ones," he told the crowd, which yelled "Yes!" in response. "My answer to you is: we held elections, and as long as you don't kill me, there won't be any other elections."

He tried to justify the police's brutal treatment of protesters, which is shocking to anyone who hasn't seen US law enforcement at work. Like a common Hamlet, he claimed he must “be cruel only to be kind."

"Yes, I am not sacred," he said. "You know my cruelty. You know if not my cruelty, there would be no country."

Dominate those streets, Mr. President.

Oh, and this has a very last gasp of a dictator ring to it:

"Don't worry, I won't beat you, it's not in my interests," Lukashenko said as he approached the group. "But if one of you provokes me, I'll deal with it cruelly. Be a man. There's a whole crowd of you here and I'm only all alone. Put your phone down!"

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya had gone into hiding after the election that she obviously won. The people rising up has emboldened her to speak out and advocate for leading the nation into a free tomorrow.

TIKHANOVSKAYA: I am ready to take on the responsibility and serve in this period as a national leader so that the country calms down, returns to a normal rhythm, so that we free all political prisoners in the shortest possible period and prepare … for new presidential elections.

It is inspiring to see authoritarianism rejected overwhelmingly, at least in Belarus. Trump still enjoys the support of at least 40 percent or Americans, who do so voluntarily. But whether it's the streets of Minsk or Seattle, young people are standing up and demanding something better.

Twenty-four-year-old Katya, who was also present at the freedom march on Sunday said protesters would not respond with violence and were not duped by the government.

"When [Lukashenko] stopped the Internet, it was like he thought that it would stop us, but we are a nation with bright people... you can't stop us like that. We just find a way around it and we will continue to be smarter," she said.

Dictators are cowards, and we can expect Lukashenko to lash out like a wounded animal as his grip on power loosens. He insists sinister forces are organizing the protests, and he's already asked Russian president Vladimir Putin for help.

On a related topic, Trump plans to meet with Putin before the election.

[Voa News / Euronews / DW / The Guardian]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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