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Czech Interior Minister: Police committed "minor excesses" during recent demonstrations

21.2.2016 19:54
Opponents of refugee reception (on the left) attacked a procession by those opposed to hate speech on 6 February 2016 as they were walking from Malostranské Square to Prague Castle. The incident lasted five to 10 minutes. Police attempted to keep both groups away from each other. (PHOTO:  Czech News Agency)
Opponents of refugee reception (on the left) attacked a procession by those opposed to hate speech on 6 February 2016 as they were walking from Malostranské Square to Prague Castle. The incident lasted five to 10 minutes. Police attempted to keep both groups away from each other. (PHOTO: Czech News Agency)

The Czech Police, who are facing criticism over the approach they took to recent demonstrations against Islam and in support of refugee reception, are officially said to have managed the situation well, save for a few "minor excesses". Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) gave that assessment to journalists yesterday in Prague.

Chovanec plans to release the results of his police procedure assessment on Monday at a press conference. He characterized an incident involving masked rioters that police officers failed to intervene against as a "targeted provocation".

"The results [of the review] are not negative for the police. There were some minor excesses, which we describe. At the end of the day, it's possible to say that the police handled everything," Chovanec said.

Masked extremists' attack was a provocation - but not a police one

The demonstrations by opponents of Islam and advocates of receiving refugees took place in Prague during the first Saturday in February. The police have faced criticism for, among other things, failing to intervene against masked rioters who attacked a march in support of refugee reception in the center of the capital.

Suspicions arose through social networks and elsewhere that police officers had been among the men with covered faces, or that an officer directed the rioting group. "We will be able, probably, to document that this was a targeted provocation - not by police, but by someone else completely," Chovanec said.

Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán (ANO) did not spare the police his own criticism after the demonstrations. He referred, among other things, to the fact that it is against the law to cover one's face at a public assembly or to carry a weapon.

After the demonstrations, Pelikán said police had failed when they did not intervene against the masked rioters. He added that the commanders of the maneuvers should be held accountable for that failure.

Chovanec did not want to present the details of his review of the police performance yet. He will present the results to members of the Goverment and Parliament and will publish them tomorrow afternoon.

Officer who failed to aid Czech Radio reporter could not be found

The Interior Minister said he has not yet managed to find the police officer against whom staffers of Czech Radio have filed a complaint. They allege the officer refused to aid them when demonstrators attacked their transmission vehicle.

"Unfortunately, we did not manage to identify the person near the Czech Radio vehicle... We did everything we could to find the officer who is said to have behaved in that way. We'll see if we can manage it by Monday," Chovanec said.

Shortly after all the various events were officially over, the Police Presidium stood up for the officers who had overseen the day's assemblies and marches. According to the Presidium, the officers managed to maintain public order and proceeded professionally even though the situation was complex and involved clashes between demonstrators of different opinions.   

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Demonstrace, Extremism, Islamofobie, Policie, Racism



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