Czech neo-Nazis experience May Day debacle as counter-protests drown them out with music
Yesterday neo-Nazi adherents assembled on náměstí Svobody (Freedom Square) in Brno, the second-biggest city in the Czech Republic, for their 1 May march. Those opposed to them outnumbered them on the scene and were there to dance and drum.
Police officers had to deal with several scruffles. Counter-protesters hung a banner on the astronomical clock in Brno reading "What's more absurd than tolerating intolerance?" which the neo-Nazis pulled down and slashed with knives.
Štěpánka Komárová, spokesperson for the South Moravian Police, told the Czech News Agency that approximately 150 ultra-right adherents assembled compared to 300 people opposed to them. Police reportedly made 11 individual arrests of people from both groups.
Their offenses will now be dealt with by the local authority. Another 50 people opposed to the neo-Nazis were temporarily detained by police en masse after blocking the neo-Nazi march by sitting on the tram tracks.
The assembly began at 14:00. The "Brno Blocks" (Brno blokuje) initiative announced that they did not want to hold a blockade this year, calling on people to organize their own, amusing performances under the slogan "You can't salute the Nazis if you're having a good time" ("Kdo si hraje, nehajluje").
Ultra-right adherents carrying flags with the Bohemian lion were met on the square by several hundred opponents who were dancing, drawing pictures and drumming. Police officers and members of the police anti-conflict team supervised order.
After members of the ultra-right torn down their opponents' posters and slashed up the biggest of them, anti-conflict officers calmed the situation when one of the organizers of the counter-protests complained that the neo-Nazis had been allowed to leave the scene after committing the violence. The neo-Nazis marched to Moravské Square and down Rooseveltova Street to the train station, where they ended their march early, despite having originally planned to march to Zelný trh.
Some of those attending the march held banners with inscriptions stating that the way to address the current crisis is for the country to leave the European Union, or that they rejected multiculturalism. Several counter-protesters carrying other signs stood in their way at one point, some of whom were on bicycles.
The anti-conflict team and police officers did their best to make sure the two sides did not meet. Scuffles did break out on Moravské Square and were suppressed by the police officers.
The right-wing extremists made speeches on the square, but their voices were almost entirely drowned out by the drumming and whistling of their opponents, the numbers of whom continued to grow as time passed. "The Nazis have just assaulted non-violently protesting cyclists in front of the Jošt statue. Some of the neo-Nazis began driving a car into the bicycles and pushing people off them. The situation is currently calm and nobody was injured," Brno Blocks reported on Facebook.
According to the initiative, two-neo-Nazis were arrested in connection with that incident. The march then headed for the train station.
Those opposed to the neo-Nazis did their best to blockade them there. Riot police had to push them out of the way using foot patrols, more than 10 police vans, and mounted police officers.
As the crowd of extremists passed by the Janáček Theater, firecrackers and rocks were thrown at them. Police then arrested more of their opponents.
Some counter-protesters sat down on the tram tracks in front of the officers on horseback to stop the march, while others climbed onto the police vans. Three men were arrested on Moravské Square for assaulting police officers.
Finally the ultra-right supporters made it to the train station and dispersed their march. According to the Brno Blocks initiative, then police surrounded those counter-protesting the neo-Nazis near the Hotel Grand.
At around 16:30, after the neo-Nazis ended their event, the police began to release the counter-protesters. "The neo-Nazis' march has ended, dozens of embittered people are now slowly going away. We will continue to follow the situation in the streets. The people surrounded by the police cordons near the Hotel Grand are being gradually released," the Brno Blocks initiative commented at the time.
Petr Štika, secretary of the Brno-střed Municipal Department, told the Czech News Agency that he recorded inappropriate behavior on both sides, but more such behavior by the counter-protesters. The municipality will be assessing all of the recorded incidents to see whether they must further address any of the misdemeanors committed.
Štika said he saw lawbreaking primarily by counter-protesters, who he said did not announce their assemblies, blocked the march, and did their best to use noise to drown out the speeches being made by the conveners of the march. He said the assembly on Freedom Square was a problem because a court verdict forbids noise there.
Members of the neo-Nazi march turned up their own music loudly there, while those blockading them drummed and sang loudly. "I will also be addressing the fact that the convener of the event refused to communicate with me as it was underway. We will assess the entire situation and see how to further address it. We are also waiting for the police reports," he said.
Komárová said police would be taking those arrested into custody to ascertain the facts of what happened in their cases. She added that most cases will probably end up being assessed as misdemeanors.
"We also confiscated injection needles and narcotic psychotropic substances from some people," she concluded. Hedvika Kropáčková, spokesperson for the South Moravian emergency medical services, told the Czech News Agency that one drunken man ended up in the care of first responders after falling into an epileptic seizure during a police intervention and was hospitalized.
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