Olga Misik on Standing Up For Human Rights in Russia

"I don't believe in politicians. I believe in myself and the people." Teenager Olga Misik, who read the Russian constitution in front of riot police at a Moscow demonstration, spoke to Brut about fearlessly standing up for human rights.

Meet the New Symbol of Russian Resistance

Olga Misik became a symbol of Russia’s pro-democracy movement after this photo went viral. During a July 2019 protest, the 17-year-old read the Russian constitution in front of Moscow officers — specifically articles about freedom of speech/to peacefully protest. Protests erupted in Moscow after election officials banned opposition candidates from running for a city council election in September. Moscow’s 45-seat city council is controlled by pro-Kremlin Russia United party. Misik arrived with friends early in the afternoon to protest.

After being separated from one another she eventually came close to the front row of riot police. Reading and waving the constitution around is a common form of protest in Russia, as it's meant to highlight Vladimir Putin's alleged dismissal of Article 31 — the right to free assembly. “We are here so that the independent candidates, for whom we have left our signatures, would be allowed to participate in the election. They should take part and the citizens should vote. If they were allowed... Let people decide for themselves who will represent them. That is, it.”

Misik was allowed to leave following the reading. Later at a subway station she was approached by unidentified officers who detained and arrested her. Misik says she was held for 12 hours. Reports show she was held for a day and now must appear in court to contest the charge of "attending a public event which was held without filing a notice." Generally, in Russia, it’s an extremely unstable political situation. And personally I don’t support anyone specific.But I like all the opposition candidates. Misik was one of over 1,000 protesters detained during demonstrations on July 27, 2019. She was charged with taking part in an illegal protest and faces up to a $10,000 fine. Misik says despite concerns from her parents, she will continue protesting. She is studying journalism at Moscow State University.