The main reason Ukrainians massed in Kyiv’s Independence Square, was the violent police dispersal of a peaceful pro-EU demo and brutal beatings handed out on November 30.
Sociologists at the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, who questioned 1,037 Ukrainian protesters, concluded that the decision by the Ukrainian authorities to disperse the peaceful demo with force was a big mistake.
“When we asked people why they joined the rally, 70 percent said they came because they were angry with the dispersal of the peaceful pro-EU demo on November 30. Fifty four percent of people said it was the Ukrainian president’s refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, and the third reason for coming to Independence Square is a will to change life in Ukraine,” said Sociologist Yulia Ilchuk.
The violence apparently stirred Ukrainians from stoic acceptance of their plight to stand up and fight.
“No, I’m not taking part, I’m from a doctors’ family. I think medical workers and teachers should be out of politics. But to tell the truth I’m proud of these people who’re staying here whole days and nights, when it’s cold outside, we should give them credit, that’s their state of mind,” said one woman.
“I’m against the rally. We need to resolve the problem peacefully, but when they break the fences, beat each other, fight, I’m against these demos,” was an elderly woman’s opinion.
“I can’t go to Independence Square during the day, It’s not possible, my baby is too little, and I’m not so healthy. We usually join the demo at Independence Square in the evening, when we have time,” said one man with a pushchair.
The violent police attack was unprecedented. None had taken place during the Orange Revolution itself. Instead of breaking the protesters’ will, it seems to have strengthened it.
“Seventy three percent of protesters said they’re going to stay there as long as needed until their demands are fulfilled. Only nine percent answered they’re going to hold a protest only for 2-3 days, while three percent of the participants said they would stay at the square until New Year Eve,” says Ilchuk.
People power is also getting organised, with crowd numbers kept constant by rotation, and armies of volunteers organising supplies to fight the cold and hunger.