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May 19, 2022



Czech bus driver refuses to drive city bus with bigoted campaign ad, mayor negotiates its removal

2.9.2020 11:53
The "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement in the Czech Republic used the slogan "For Healthy Schools Without Inclusion" in its advertising campaign for the 2020 regional and Senate elections in Brno, the second-largest city. (PHOTO: Facebook page of Josef Prokeš)

Josef Prokeš, a driver for the Brno Municipal Transit Authority, objected recently to driving a city bus displaying a campaign advertisement for the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement with the slogan "For Healthy Schools Without Inclusion". He refused to pilot the vehicle as long as the advertisement, which features the bigoted slogan and the faces of the chair of the movement, Czech MP Tomio Okamura, and the party's candidate for the Czech Senate, Tomáš Andrle, was in place.

The driver said he considers the slogan an attack on his children. "It may be all the same to the company what people - children - their vehicles are attacking, but I'm sorry, it's not all the same to me. That ad might as well read 'For a Healthy Society Without Jews.' I do not intend to participate in this, to be part of spitting on the children who are being included, to insult them, especially not my own daughter. I have two children disabled by autism, that slogan greatly offends me," he said.

The Transit Authority allegedly first asserted that it was lawful for the advertisement to be on the bus and allegedly threatened to put an unexcused absence in the driver's file if he refused to pilot the vehicle. In its official statement, the Transit Authority then wrote that the SPD movement had leased the advertising space on the basis of a proper contract.

"Whoever rents advertising space is responsible for the content of the advertisement and the Transit Authority is not authorized to change the content of an advertisement in any way," the official statement read. After the driver contacted Mayor of Brno Markéta Vaňková (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) and published his story on Facebook, the Transit Authority changed its tune and removed the offensive advertisement from the bus.

"I checked with the Brno Municipal Transit Authority that this was not a slogan as part of a city campaign, but that this was actually an SPD campaign advertisement. Director-General Miloš Havránek and I have agreed that Mr Prokeš will not be driving the buses featuring that particular slogan," the mayor said.

Prokeš then shared a photograph of the bus without the insulting advertisement for the SPD. That has enraged Andrle, who sees nothing wrong with the insulting slogan.

The SPD candidate for the Senate is demanding that Prokeš be punished for his brave stance. "A driver must accept the orders of his employer. The Transit Authority, in my view, should impose a sanction on him for such behavior," Andrle was quoted as saying by news server

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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