Czech capital won't allow second demonstration against xenophobia because of timing clash with anti-immigrant event
The City of Prague has refused permission to a second assembly in support of receiving refugees announced for this Saturday on Wenceslas Square. The space requested had previously been reserved.
The right-wing extremist National Democracy organization had previously "reserved" the space at that time for a demonstration against immigration. The city's decision on the matter states that the decision was made on a "first-come, first-served" basis.
Three separate events are still scheduled to take place on Saturday afternoon on Wenceslas Square. At 14:00, people who want to express solidarity with refugees and condemn the dissemination of fear about them will gather at the Můstek area at the bottom of the square.
At 15:00 those who do not want immigrants in the Czech Republic will gather at the top of Wenceslas Square at the statue of St. Václav. At 17:00 a third event will take place at the bottom of the square, a "People's Camp" convened by right-wing extremists which will be addressed by Czech MP Tomio Okamura.
A fourth event expressing solidarity with refugees was announced by another set of organizers for the bottom of Wenceslas Square as well. The start time was announced as 16:00 on Saturday.
The event was announced to authorities on 9 July. "City Hall had already received on 2 July an announcement of the assembly 'Against Immigration, Against Quotas, and for Withdrawing from the EU' from the National Democracy convener," the decision reads.
City officials asked the National Democracy organizers whether they would be willing to share the space with a second event. They said they would not.
The conveners of the second "solidarity action" with refugees reportedly did not respond to the city's offer of another site on Wenceslas Square for their event, according to the decision. The most recent demonstration against immigration in Prague was held on Wenceslas Square on 1 July.
Approximately 700 people attended that assembly. Some brought mock-ups of gallows with them.
Police did not intervene against those demonstrators but did investigate the event once it was over. Officers believe some participants and speakers may have committed a crime during the assembly.
Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) said displays of racism and xenophobia must not be tolerated. That sentiment was echoed by Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (ČSSD) and Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL).
According to the right-wing extremist National Democracy organization, "carrying mock-ups of gallows is an absolutely appropriate expression of disagreement with the Government." The Czech cabinet recently agreed to receive 1 500 refugees by the end of 2017.
Saturday's pro-immigration event will take place in front of the "New Yorker" building at the bottom of Wenceslas Square at 14:00 and is called an "Assembly in Solidarity with Refugees and Against the Dissemination of Hatred". Organizers say its aim is to respond to the ongoing dissemination of hatred and xenophobia and the intentional provocation of fear among Czech citizens; news server Romea.cz publishes the organizers' press release in full translation as follows:
Assembly in Solidarity with Refugees and Against the Dissemination of Hatred
The convener of our assembly is Romana Červenková, who has contributed to organizing it together with members of the Stop Hatred (Stop nenávisti) initiative (Apolena Rychlíková, Filip Bořivoj Schneider, Ondřej Mazura), the evangelical pastor Mikuláš Vymětal, and many other people. A large portion of society currently disagrees with the rising tide of hatred and social exclusion in the Czech Republic.
Proof of this disagreement is the approximately 11 000 signatures to the call to "Stop Hatred". Public figures such as Czech Senator Eliška Wagnerová, journalist Petr Uhl, film director Helena Třeštíková and Roman Catholic priest Tomáš Halík have joined it, as have countless initiatives, including People in Need (Člověk v tísni), the Romea association, the Green Party and Amnesty International Czech Republic.
We also feel that it is essential to stand up against the rising aggression coming from the circle of people around Martin Konvička, Adama B. Bartoš and other nationalist groups. Those participating in the assembly intend to express their solidarity with those in need and to strictly reject the current xenophobic direction of Czech society.
We most recently witnessed this direction on Wednesday, 1 July, when a gallows was carried onto Wenceslas Square as a threat against anyone who dares support the reception of refugees in the Czech Republic. Those who express compassion for people of other races or religions who find themselves in difficult life situations are being publicly accused of treason and intimidated by the threat of physical violence.
Romana Červenková, assembly organizer, says of the event: "I never expected to be leading an action of this type. The situation, however, has already become so extreme that people are threatening others with gallows on Wenceslas Square with impunity, and political parties have gone so far astray as to enrich themselves by sparking fear of Islam and refugees. I think the time has come to stand up to this xenophobic wave and do our best to dampen these tendencies - otherwise there is the risk that fear and hatred will lead to physical violence."
Documentary filmmaker Apolena Rychlíková, the spokesperson for the informal "Stop Hatred" group, says: "We would like, through this demonstration, to keep faith with everyone who shares our opinions and is disturbed by the current radicalization of society, by these lying campaigns based on spreading fear of the unknown, by the aggression of those who, out of hatred, are doing their best to score political points. It is important to stand up against a campaign conducted using the methods practiced by the 'We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic' group or by National Democracy. In reality it is those groups who pose the greatest threat to our rule of law."
The assembly will be opened by Romana Červenková, followed by appearances by Shadi Shanaah of the Glopolis think-tank; Hassan Charfo, chair of the Syrian Free Community in the Czech Republic; college teacher Ondřej Slačálek; and Marek Čaněk of Multicultural Center Prague. It will be moderated by Mikuláš Vymětal, a pro-minority parson, and accompanied by the music of DJ Selector Boldrik and his colleague Messenjahem.
The event will be followed by a march ending at the local park on Karlovo náměstí, where there will be a picnic. The route of the march will be 28. října Street – Jungmannova Street – Vodičkova Street – Karlovo náměstí.
At 17:00 a cultural and musical program will begin, convened by colleagues from the Stop Hatred initiative, at the Indigo café (poetry, rap/hiphop) the Rybka café (slam poetry) and the Buben club (DJs, punk and reggae bands). A list of supporters of the event is available here.
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