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Czech Interior Minister says police should know a gallows has no place in a democracy

3.7.2015 6:10
Milan Chovanec, Czech Interior Minister, on an anti-immigrant demonstration held in Prague in 2015:
Milan Chovanec, Czech Interior Minister, on an anti-immigrant demonstration held in Prague in 2015: "Gallows have no place in a democracy, the police, as an organ of a democratic state, must be aware of that." (Collage:

Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) is demanding an explanation from police leadership as to why they did not intervene against the participants in the recent demonstration against Islam and migration in the center of Prague who were carrying mock-ups of gallows. The minister said the police must be aware that neither death threats nor gallows have any place in a democracy.

The police intervention will be investigated by the ministry's Internal Affairs Department. Police, however, say that carrying a gallows during a demonstration is a new element that must be evaluated in terms of police procedure.

Jana Macalíková, spokesperson for the Police Presidium, communicated the police response to the Czech News Agency. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but the public brandishing of symbols like a gallows has no place in an advanced democratic society in the 21st century, and neither do death threats. The Police of the Czech Republic must be aware of this. Offices must also be aware that the public follows their every move and that people are very sensitive in their perceptions of when officers intervene and how," Chovanec said in a statement yesterday.  

The minister has demanded that police investigate their own procedure and "that the staff responsible be held accountable." Posting to Twitter, he said "I contacted police during their intervention and demanded a thorough investigation of their intervention and the sanctioning of those responsible."  

Macalíková said the carrying of a gallows at a demonstration must be evaluated by the police's Analysis and Legislation Department, which should answer the question of how to proceed in such cases. The police intervention and procedures will also be investigated by the Internal Affairs Department, which will review video evidence.

"Management will communicate the results of the investigation into police procedure by the end of next week," she told the Czech News Agency. During the demonstration, attorney Michal Uhl warned a representative of the Prague 1 Municipal Department of the illegal behavior underway, but the representative said there were only a couple of gallows and that the person who had convened the demonstration wasn't to blame for who had shown up.

However, according to a statement made by one of the conveners of the demonstrations, Adam B. Bartoš, the gallows were part of the organizers' plan. He tweeted this message in advance of the demonstration:  "Have you ever seen a noose made of hemp hanging in front of a seat of government? Me neither, but on Wednesday you will..."

According to police, the demonstration against immigration and quotas and in favor of the Czech Republic leaving the European Union was attended by approximately 550 people in the center of Prague, including counter-demonstrators (a number is lower than the one they originally reported). Riot police kept the two sides separated.

Officers intervened against activists who tried to block the march of those opposed to immigrants toward the Office of the Government by sitting on the sidewalk. Three people were taken to the police station for their civil disobedience.

A fourth person was arrested, allegedly for assaulting officers when they intervened against the other detainees. Tomáš Hulan, spokesperson for the Prague Police, said that no one has filed a formal complaint yet against the intervention that is being investigated.

"From our findings to date and the information available it does not follow that any of the intervening police officers made any errors," Hulan said today. The demonstrators shouted slogans on their way to the Office of the Government like "Bohemia for the Czechs", "We Are the Nation" and "This is Our Home".  

The participants warned against "hordes of horny blacks" coming to the country while brandishing mock-ups of gallows inscribed "For Treason". The view of the demonstrators was that several Czech politicians have committed treason.

The name of the Czech PM was frequently mentioned as one of them. The Czech Green Party is now demanding a thorough investigation of the police procedure during the demonstration as well.

The Greens consider it unacceptable "for radicals to openly threaten anyone with death while the police intervene disproportionately against citizens who disagree with that." The party made their official statement available to the Czech News Agency.

Czech Senator Václav Láska (Green Party)said he believes such an open display of hatred and intimidation has not been seen in the Czech Republic for a long time, to say nothing of in the center of Prague under police supervision. Philipp Janýr, an activist and Austrian citizen of Czech origin, has filed criminal charges against Czech MP Tomio Okamura (Freedom and Direct Democracy - SPD), musician Aleš Brichta and journalist Adam B. Bartoš for convening the event.

Philipp Janýr told the Czech News Agency that the organizers had committed several crimes during their appearance at the assembly. He accused them of inciting hatred against a group or its individual members, defamation of a nation or race, and violence against a group or its individual members.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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