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Arson attack Saturday after Prague demonstrations for and against refugee reception

9.2.2016 2:00
Boards over the broken display window at the Klinika Social Center in the  Žižkov quarter of Prague. The photograph was taken on 7 February 2016. On Saturday, 6 February 2016,  a group of about 20 masked persons attacked the center in the evening with flares and rocks. (PHOTO:  František Kostlán)
Boards over the broken display window at the Klinika Social Center in the Žižkov quarter of Prague. The photograph was taken on 7 February 2016. On Saturday, 6 February 2016, a group of about 20 masked persons attacked the center in the evening with flares and rocks. (PHOTO: František Kostlán)

"The moment it happened I said to myself 'This just can't be happening, it's like a bad film'," says Monika Bundžová, one of the witnesses to the attack on the Klinika Autonomous Center in the Žižkov quarter of Prague by a group of approximately 20 right-wing extremists. What happened on Saturday evening at Klinka was an attempt at an action organized in a military way - and if the assailants themselves were not assumed to be Czechs, the media and politicians would certainly be calling it "terrorism" now.

"The aggression of the Czech nationalists is most reminiscent of precisely those fundamentalist Islamist groups against whom they claim to stand," Jakub Ort of the Klinika center said. According to Bundžová and the testimonies of several other eyewitnesses given to news server Romea.cz, the extremists surrounded the Klinika building and did their best to break in through two entrances - the upper one, which is faces a park, and a lower one, which is faces a street.

At the time there were around 20 people, both men and women, inside the building. The attackers wanted to bust through the upper entry doors, but fortunately those doors are designed to open outward, so they could not completely succeed.

Reportedly some of the women present ran to hide in the more interior rooms of the Klinika, while some of the men present defended the doors using pepper spray. The extremists began throwing rocks through the windows, breaking about 10 panes of glass.

A man was injured during the window-smashing who was taken to a hospital for treatment once the attack was over. Fortunately, his injuries were not serious.

"Only three stitches," a victim of the attack said of his injuries. The xenophobes also threw smoke bombs through one of the windows, which endangered those people inside the building who did not run away in time and inhaled the smoke.

The attackers were not able to get inside the building through the lower entrance either. However, they did throw a burning object through the window of the room by the main entrance, setting fire to the curtains.

Fortunately, those inside managed to put out the fire. Regarding what kind of object was thrown, the testimonies vary - some say a Molotov cocktail, others a flare.

In addition, some of the attackers were carrying flaming torches in their hands. Neo-Nazis usually use those during their events.

"A cowardly, evil creature"

On Sunday afternoon, people from the Autonomous Center convened a "calm, informal meeting in the park in front of Klinika". Several hundred people (between 300 and 400) came out to support them, including several politicians.

Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier, Mayor of Prague Andrea Krnáčová, Czech Senator Václav Láska and other people from the Green Party attended the meeting. The journalists and others present were able to take a look at the damage to the Klinika building and help "clean up after the Nazis".

"This is something that simply crosses the line. It is absolutely essential to address this situation, no one can remain indifferent to this. The hatred that is spreading through Czech society must be stopped," Dienstbier told the press.

"Throwing a Molotov cocktail into a building where people live is not something any normal person does - those are the actions of a cowardly, evil creature. Prague is an international, open city that will not tolerate these contemptible displays of intolerance based on nationality, race and religion," the mayor said.

Criticism of the media and police

At the assembly, those gathered primarily criticized some media outlets, the police, and populist, xenophobic politicians. Outrage among those who in solidarity with Klinika was sparked, for example, by the behavior of public broadcaster Czech Television, whose news reporting of the facts about Saturday's events was biased - and not for the first time when it comes to reporting on either the Klinika community or right-wing violence.

On its "News" program, Czech Television reported that earlier in the day, during the various demonstrations in Prague, there had been mutual violence committed between those in favor of receiving refugees and those opposed to receiving them. The truth, however, was that those who threw bottles and rocks at a peaceful procession of the "No to Racism" initiative were the neo-Nazis.

We criticized Czech Television in 2011 for a similar digression from reality, specifically for their news reporting on the neo-Nazi march in Brno and those who engaged in a non-violent blockade of it. Many important figures in society also criticized the public broadcaster's reporting at that time.

Back then Czech Television also reported that violence was committed by both sides of an alleged "clash". As for Saturday's violence during the demonstrations in Prague, the police are now being criticized for their handling of a rock-throwing incident in Zámecká Street, when a masked group of aggressors was not arrested and was allowed to continue their violent spree through the streets of Prague.

Those were probably the same people who, thanks to the inaction of the police, were able to follow up their rock throwing by assaulting people at Prague's main train station. In the evening they were probably the same people who went on to attack the Klinika center.

We will not be terrorized

This is not the first time the Autonomous Center has been attacked. According to the people who live at Klinika, two months ago right-wing extremists threw several rocks through the windows.

"We will not be terrorized by threats or by violence. We will continue our actions of solidarity to develop alternative, free spaces," says Jakub Ort. 

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Demonstrace, Extremism, Média, Neo-Nazism, Policie, Politika, Racism



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