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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Drivers Line Up With Signs and Blue Buckets

MTA driver placing a blue bucket on a car Saturday on Volokolamskoye Shosse during a rally against flashing blue lights.
Sergei Sherkov carefully smoothed tape over a sign saying "No anti-driver changes to the Administrative Code!" to the side of his truck before pulling out a poster that read: "We'll teach you to love the Constitution."

"In my opinion, only Moscow's mayor and [President Vladimir] Putin should have the blue flashing lights, and no one else," he said.

The truck driver was among hundreds of motorists who parked along Volokolamskoye Shosse across from the Tushino airfield on Saturday to call for restrictions on cars with flashing blue lights. The rally, which was not officially sanctioned but went off without a hitch, was part of a successful grassroots campaign for drivers' rights.

More than 1,000 drivers participated at the Moscow rally, Interfax reported, while motorists also gathered in Perm, Novosibirsk, Barnaul and some 35 other cities across the country.

Vyacheslav Lysakov, the leader of the Free Choice Motorists' Movement, which organized Saturday's event and similar demonstrations over the past year, said the goal was to convince authorities to change a 1995 law that allows officials to drive with blue lights and sirens. He said only ambulances, police cars and presidential cars should get preferential treatment on the road.

The 1995 law has come under heavy criticism after a driver, Oleg Shcherbinsky, was sent to prison earlier this year for his role in a crash that killed Altai Governor Mikhail Yevdokimov. Drivers staged nationwide protests, and Shcherbinsky's sentence was later overturned.

Lysakov also said the government ought to address corruption within the traffic police.

"We want civility on our roads," he said. "We want to take everything that prevents that off the roads."

Drivers began parking along Volokolamskoye Shosse at 11 a.m. Saturday, well before a scheduled 1 p.m. drive down the street. They taped blue buckets to their cars to mock the blue lights and taped signs reading "I Pay Taxes -- Where Are the Roads?" and "No Inequality on the Roads" to passenger windows.

Mikhail, a 31-year-old truck driver, said he was tired of disorder on the roads and that he wanted police officers to do their jobs. He said drivers should be treated with more respect.

"Some drivers can do whatever they want," he said. "Others are stopped for no reason. Or they close off a road for some driver with flashing lights, and the rest of us have to stand and wait."

Dozens of police officers walked along the sidewalk, while others stood and watched the parked drivers. At one point an officer, who refused to give his name, demanded that signs and flags be removed from the cars. But Lysakov and others quickly pointed out there was no law prohibiting either from being displayed on cars.

Valery Zubov, an independent State Duma deputy, shook his head and waved his arms. "Those in charge don't even know the law," he said.

A police officer, who only identified himself as Mikhail, said officers were only on hand to maintain order, and not to arrest protesters for holding an unauthorized rally.

Police later said one person was detained during the rally -- for jaywalking.