Stop a Douchebag, Russia’s Civility Heroes, Cut Off by Ministry of Justice
The popular traffic activist group was caught off guard by the government decision that froze its funds.
A Moscow court has stripped Russian traffic activist group Stop a Douchebag of its registration and federal funding on orders from the Ministry of Justice last week, the Russian news site Fontanka reported on Wednesday, effectively “liquidating” the group. The self-anointed traffic police lost their good standing because of a failure to submit paperwork the state requires of recognized social organizations.
Stop a Douchebag is a popular movement of young men who confront violators of traffic rules on the street—often loudly, unapologetically, and self-righteously, as The Daily Beast reported in May. Run a stoplight or drive on the curb to escape notorious Moscow traffic and you might find a flailing young man on your windshield, trying to block your line of sight with giant stickers that read “I spit on everyone, I drive where I want.”
They film their exploits to publicly shame drivers, attract police attention, and achieve Internet stardom.
“On almost every raid, my friends or I get knocked down. So if someone give me trauma—a bruise, or dirty clothes, but as long as contact between me and the car happened—that person should be punished,” the group’s “Driving on Sidewalks” director, Maruan Mukhamed, told The Daily Beast in May.
He said only a few of the videos make it online, “so that when people watch the video, they see that you can’t behave like that.”
Videos shot by the group—whose name might be more accurately translated as “stop a cad”—have been watched millions of times in Russia and around the world, reaching English-language viewers with subtitled clips. It’s spawned offshoots in cities from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok.
The group first registered as a legal entity in 2013 in order to be eligible for nonprofit grants. Fontanka reports the group has been taking in federal money ever since: 4 million rubles in 2013, 6 million rubles in 2014, and 8 million (which comes to just over $100,000) in 2015.
Тhe law governing registration of social organizations has a hefty paperwork requirement, and failure to meet it can lead to punishment. The group was flagged for failing to meet the guidelines in October.
A source close to the Kremlin told Gazeta.ru, however, that the reality is the government was just fed up. While the youthful activists were initially helpful in dealing with traffic violations and arrogant drivers, that source said, they quickly became a source of frustration and an unnecessary distraction.
But leader Dmitry Chugunov told Fontanka he was surprised by news his organization had been sanctioned, and said that his attorneys would be seeking access to leftover 2015 funds, which are frozen.
And the strict rules he has for drivers on the road don’t quite apply when it comes to his group’s paperwork.
“If we can’t restore our registration, we can create a different legal entity,” he told Fontanka.