Czech court acquits activist who used removable paint on sidewalk in front of Parliament
Today the Prague 1 District Court acquitted two activists who used removable paint to outline the figure of a man and write the name "Tomáš" on the sidewalk in front of the Czech lower house in July. Judge Dana Šindelářová said no crime had been committed and there had been no intention to commit property damage.
At the beginning of October a first-instance court handed down suspended sentences of six and 10 months in prison against the two activists for "property damage" even though they had used removable paint. Their colleagues washed the graffiti from the sidewalk and brought police officers photographs documenting the cleanup while the two arrested activists were still at the police station.
The activists' intention was to commemorate the suicide of a man living in a residential hotel in Ostrava. The man allegedly killed himself because he feared losing his housing benefit and therefore the roof over his head.
The incident occurred during a time of crisis caused by the coming into effect of an amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress that conditioned the awarding of housing benefits on the agreement of the local municipality to their being awarded to a particular person for use in a particular facility. Some municipalities decided to reject all of applications for housing benefits that they received across the board, which meant that thousands of people were threatened with being turned out onto the street.
One month after the amendment took effect, Czech politicians came to the conclusion that it was absurd and tasked Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová with redrafting it. The most recent proposal on the issue, of course, is also sparking polemics and protests.
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