A UW-Madison graduate working as a photojournalist for The Guardian was one of hundreds of people arrested Sunday at an opposition rally in Moscow.
Alec Luhn, a Stoughton, Wis. native, was arrested by Russian police after taking photographs of protesters being detained at a rally called by Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader who has announced he’ll be challenging Vladimir Putin in next year’s presidential election.
Despite informing police that he was an American journalist, Luhn was grabbed by an officer wearing a black helmet and flak jacket and then forcibly pushed against the side of a police van, according to an article he wrote for The Guardian following the incident. Luhn documented his arrest and subsequent detention, posting pictures from inside the police van and police station to his Twitter account.
Luhn was released by police after five-and-a-half hours and charges against him were dropped after foreign ministry intervention. However, Luhn reported many of those arrested Sunday were not let off so easily.
Luhn described peaceful protesters being thrown to the ground, kicked and struck in the head. Many of those detained, according to Luhn, were accused of crimes like shouting protest slogans and attending an unsanctioned rally. Possible punishments for those crimes include payment of fines and compulsory labor.
“I’ve witnessed many unfounded arrests and farcical trials in more than six years reporting in Russia,” Luhn wrote. “I was still shocked at how roughly police detained several peaceful demonstrators and a foreign journalist in this instance, even though there was no threat of rioting or violence.”