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June 25, 2022



Commentary: Are the Czech police not bothered by death threats and a gallows?

6.7.2015 22:08
The gallows that were brandished on 1 July 2015 at a demonstration against migrants in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  Michal Uhl)
The gallows that were brandished on 1 July 2015 at a demonstration against migrants in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: Michal Uhl)

The following commentary was first published in Czech on 2 July.

Today I participated in a really "utopian" demonstration. It was held right alongside all those friends and supporters of Adam B. Bartoš and Tomio Okamura who had decided to crack down on migrants, Muslims and other "vermin".

Both demonstrations had been properly announced to the authorities. A few observations:  I warned the commander of the police intervention that the gallows being carried by the other demonstrators were not ok.

I informed him that they constituted a death threat, which is not exactly in accordance with the Constitution, and the commander (badge no. 213437) answered me by saying that if I had the feeling something illegal was going on, I should go to the station to report it. I also warned a representative for the Prague 1 Municipal Department, who is empowered by law to disperse assemblies, that this one was showing signs of suppression of human rights and freedoms.  

That bureaucrat said there were only a couple of gallows there, after all, and that the "poor guy" who convened the demonstration was not responsible for who shows up at it. He also said there was no reason to cancel a demonstration over such details.  

If something illegal was going on, he, too, suggested I go to the police. A moment later, Bartoš began to bluster to the entire square, that "We'll give the politicians a week", and if they don't take action, "We'll take the law into our own hands!"

Then  Bartoš told the square that we don't want "any darkies" here - yes, he really said that, and neither the local authority or the police did anything about it. When these extremists then began to march toward the Office of the Government, they headed straight in the direction of our assembly, which had been properly announced for the time and place where we were standing.  

For symbolic reasons -because one does not back down in the face of extremism, hatred, and violence - some of us then sat down on the ground (approximately seven persons) and decided not to leave. At this juncture, in my view, the commander of the police intervention failed - he could have routed the extremist march down another street and nothing would have happened.

If the Bartošites and Okamurites insisted on walking down the same street that we were on at all costs, that also could have been arranged without any clashes, because our seven people only took up about 10 % of the street. The police could have separated the seated group from the procession without any problems - all the riot officers had to do was form a barrier.

We sat down on the ground fully prepared to take the consequences for failing to obey the police order to disperse. We were called upon to disperse, and when we did not, the riot police went after us.

They began to drag us away one by one and used, in my judgment, a rather disproportionate amount of force and incorrect procedure. For example, one riot cop used his left hand to grab demonstrator Kateřina Krejčová by the crown of her head and grabbed her beneath her throat with his right hand.  

By twisting her head and neck sideways, he forced her to move. Another demonstrator, Tomáš Schejbal, "lost" part of a tooth during the intervention.

Some of those detained were let go right away and some not. The way the units of repression dealt with people whom they had ostensibly dragged out of the way of the march for their own safety was rather oppressive.  

It was evident from the behavior of some of the officers that they were enjoying being in a situation where they felt their violence was legitimate - instead of using force proportionately, they used it however they liked. The last bit of icing on the cake was that the officers did not facilitate the detainee's attorney access to his clients... I consider the police's approach to these incidents and their procedure to have been very problematic. 

Michal Uhl, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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