MIAMI – While Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande conducted talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding the peace in Ukraine, a group of retirees in Miami, who dubbed themselves the “Babunia Battalion,” appeared at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on February 6 to protest at the performance of Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, a staunch supporter of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
While the demonstrators had to stand across the street from the center and were unable to show their signs and placards to those who alighted from the Rolls-Royces and other luxurious cars carrying concert-goers, they were able to stand on three corners around the center, where they talked to passers-by and explained the situation in Ukraine, calling for Mr. Putin’s troops to leave Ukraine and asking for lethal weapons for Ukraine to defend itself.
The group was joined by representatives from Amnesty International and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance.
There were sympathetic responses from those who appeared to be from the Baltic states. Lithuanians, for example, commented, “You don’t have to tell us. We know all too well what the Russians are capable of.” And Cubans and other Hispanics were also positively disposed, but scoffed somewhat at Washington’s promises.
The demonstrators explained that Ukrainians, unlike the “separatist” soldiers imported from Russia, know what they are fighting for: freedom. One of the demonstrators told passers-by that Ukraine was like an abused wife, wanting a divorce, but denied it by a bullying husband (Russia).
But there were those who were pro-Putin. One passer-by called each demonstrator a “fascist” and was not willing to listen or discuss the issue with the protesters. Another, from Odesa, questioned why foreigners, which is what she called the demonstrators, have the right to interfere in her country’s affairs and expressed her desire to speak Russian, instead of Ukrainian. She told the demonstrators that it was America that supplied weapons to the separatists, causing this war.
An article in which a Russian separatist leader described the government in Kyiv as run by “dirty Jews” was noted by apparently well-read Jewish passers-by. They were indeed sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause and seemed familiar with President Petro Poroshenko’s positive attitude towards Jewish citizens of Ukraine. They wished the demonstrators well.
After adjourning from the demonstration, the “battalion” left all the remaining leaflets on the windshields of the cars in the center’s parking lot as food for thought for those who attended the concert.