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Commentary by Petr Uhl on Czech Police response in Nový Bydžov

Prague, 19.3.2011 21:49, (Právo)

The state powers in communist Czechoslovakia once pretended to be anti-fascist. They exploited not only the suffering caused by the Nazis and the war, but also the completely just resistance that was made to those forces. How can the "revanchists" defend the fascists? the party/state would ask, pointing its finger at police protection for marches by right-wing radicals in West Germany and police interventions against the anti-fascists. Whoever protects the fascist is himself a fascist!

At the end of the 1980s, however, freedom came to Czechoslovkia. With it came the Council of Europe principle that freedom of assembly takes precedence over freedom of incipient speech. This is why the police must protect gatherings, even of those whom it considers extremists. This is why places and routes are "reserved" by other groups for months in advance in efforts to prevent neo-Nazis from abusing the law when they assemble. Even the efforts to reveal the actual extremist identity of those who convene these gatherings are themselves anti-democratic.

However, the culture of the rule of law is spreading. Radek Horváth, the person who convened Saturday's gathering of the "Nový Bydžov is not alone!" Initiative, has written: "[The police] intervention was not proportionate. It may have been justified, but galloping at full speed into a crowd of seated people is unheard of." His evaluation is precise - the intervention was obviously disproportionate. The counter-demonstrators should be glad that the horses kicked only once and that the police did not trample more people under their hooves. They should also be glad that only seven of them are to be punished for the misdemeanor of not obeying police orders.

The Czech legal order, however, does provide other options. Recently a court sent several radicals to prison without the possibility of parole "merely" for carrying banners and yelling "resistance" on 1 May in Brno in order to promote the "National Resistance", which the court at the time rightly labeled an association that aims to suppress human rights. Last year the Worker's Party (Dělnická strana - DS) also received the same legal designation and was dissolved.

In Nový Bydžov, one of the organizers of the neo-Nazi march was wearing a scarf inscribed with the DS logo. People chanted the party's name and promoted the same "resistance" that was promoted in Brno. Hatred of Jewish and Vietnamese people was proclaimed. People already seem unfazed by the slogans "Nothing but the Nation" and "Bohemia for the Czechs", but freedom of speech does not include the freedom to spread hatred. Even though officials and the state police had an obligation to disperse the gathering, they did not. What was the result? One Roma man with a concussion and 13 extreme-right supporters charged with beating up three Roma people after the march. The police did not manage to protect them from assault.

Czech Interior Minister Radek John (Public Affairs - VV) visited the regional capital in the run-up to Saturday's march and promised police protection to the Roma of Nový Bydžov - without even having the legal authority to guarantee it. Just like his election promises, he didn't keep his promise of security either. Be that as it may, preventing the spread of anti-Roma hatred by right-wing radicals is not going to take half as much work as it will for John to face the calls being heard from the lips of "serious" local-level politicians that the "right of domicile" be revived and "welfare abuse" be tackled.

Gwendolyn Albert, Petr Uhl, Petr Uhl, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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