Czech Police detain clergyman and Romani activist for using Czech-Romani flag to counter-protest xenophobic demo
Police estimate that approximately 500 people gathered today at noon on the Old Town Square in Prague for a demonstration against Islam in the Czech Republic. Czech MP Tomio Okamura, chair of the "Dawn of Direct Democracy" movement (Úsvit) and Jana Volfová, head of the Czech Sovereignty (CS) movement addressed protesters, after which they marched to the Czech Interior Ministry.
Also on the Old Town Square, approximately 40 people gathered just before noon for a religious assembly in favor of coexistence with minorities; Romani activist Ivana Čonková and the convener of the assembly, clergyman Mikuláš Vymětal, were detained by police for carrying a flag that combines the symbols of the Czech state flag and the flag of the Romani nation. A prank protest parodying the slogans of those opposed to Islam was also held concurrent with the anti-Islam demonstration.
Police detain clergyman and Romani activist over the Czech-Romani flag
Prior to the demonstration by the opponents of Islam, people gathered at the Jan Hus Memorial who are not bothered by Muslims or Muslim teaching in the Czech Republic. Carrying banners reading "I love my kebabs", "We are all at home here", "Hate is no solution" and "Islam is against extremism and hatred", the protesters sang songs, read from religious texts including the Quran, observed a minute of silence for the victims of hatred everywhere and prayed for coexistence and peace.
Several Muslim families participated in the gathering. "When society tolerates manifestations of hatred against minorities, it ruins the atmosphere everywhere, for a long time, so that both the members of the minorities and of the majority feel bad in society. However, we can only solve the serious problems of our world together," said evangelical parson Vymětal of the "Living Together in Peace" initiative.
Participants in the assembly against hatred were also holding a flag that combined the symbols of the Czech state flag and the flag of the Romani nation. Some of those participating in the anti-Islamic gathering took offense to that.
"The organizers from the Úsvit political party are trying to get police to intervene against our religious assembly because those attending are holding a Czech-Romani flag that allegedly desecrates a state symbol of the Czech Republic," the organizers of the religious gathering posted to Facebook. Police ultimately did intervene and brought Romani activist Ivana Čonková and clergyman Mikuláš Vymětal to a local police station.
"A man born in 1971 who was the convener of the demonstration and a woman born in 1984 ended up at the station on suspicion of committing a misdemeanor against the public order of the state administration, that of desecrating a state symbol," police spokesperson Jana Rösslerová told news server Romea.cz. After giving statements, both were released shortly after 16:00.
"Ivana Čonková and I held the Czech-Romani flag together for about three minutes. I view that flag as an artwork that expresses something important about the identity of Czechs and Roma. In my view it was not a crimel or even a misdemeanor. Other people here held the flag and it is interesting and quite striking that of all these people, the police detained us two in particular, the two most famous personalities appearing at this assembly," Vymětal told news server Romea.cz after leaving the police station.
"I convened the gathering and Ivana Čonková sang a Romani song, and that was what sparked the greatest hatred among the extremists. They shouted racist abuse at her, which is a felony, not a misdemeanor. I pointed this out to the police, but they did nothing. They claimed it would be difficult to prove if it was only verbal," Vymětal told Romea.cz.
Vymětal says police ultimately came to the conclusion that the Czech-Romani flag was not a crime but a misdemeanor that will be handled by the Prague 1 municipality. "The police behaved completely correctly, with the exception of one plainclothes officer. I asked to see his service card, and he eventually showed it to me, but for such a short time that it was impossible to see anything. He claimed the law does not say how long police are supposed to show their service identification. I will file a complaint against him," Vymětal told Romea.cz.
Demonstration against Islam calls for "Bohemia for the Czechs"
Demonstrators against "Islamization and Islamic immigration" gathered at the Jan Hus Memorial carrying Czech flags and banners from the "We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic" association featuring crossed-out mosques. Some carried banners reading "We Don't Want Multiculturalism" or "Bohemia for the Czechs - Not the Fiends".
The term "social AIDS" was also heard in connection with the "infiltration" of Europe by Muslims. Despite several such radical statements, Okamura said the assembly was calm and peaceful.
He called for the Czech Republic to prevent "the targeted infiltration of an enemy ideology aiming to disrupt the principles of democracy on which today's Europe stands." "Islamic teachings proclaimed in their original, unreformed, medieval version, contravenes the most fundamental constitutional principles of all European countries", the Úsvit head emphasized.
Okamura claimed that a literal following of Islam and Islamic law is incompatible with democracy and is "an ideology that is spreading dread around our entire planet." "We must be tolerant, but it doesn't work unilaterally. We must not share or tolerate their values," Okamura said.
At the end of the demonstration, Volfová called for people to send umbrellas to Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), who has criticized Czech President Miloš Zeman's recent statements about Islamist extremism. "A little one would be enough to match the size of Zaorálek's ideas," she declared.
Zeman intends to give the Foreign Minister a black umbrella, a reference to Neville Chamberlain, the interwar British Prime Minister who is infamous for his policy of appeasement toward Hitler's Germany. Zeman called for military action against the Islamic State last Tuesday.
The Foreign Minister said he does not believe in any future military interventions by the West. On Friday Zeman compared Zaorálek's remarks to the policy of appeasement prior to WWII, when the Western powers failed to confront Nazi Germany.
Pranksters say they don't want "Iceland" in the Czech Republic
The assembly of those opposed to Islam was also followed from the other side of the Jan Hus Memorial by several dozen pranksters carrying signs that parodied the anti-Islam demonstrators' slogans. The protesters shouted "We Don't Want Iceland in the Czech Republic", "Let's take off women's coats", "Iceland is not part of Europe" and "Stop Insidious Icelandization".
The slogans were accompanied by drawings of a familiar Czech cartoon character, a mole crawling out of a molehill. The two demonstrations were kept apart by a police anti-conflict team and other officers, and there were no clashes with the exception of verbal crossfire between several individuals.
After making speeches and observing a minute of silence for victims of "the Holocaust and Islamic terror", the participants in the anti-Islam protest marched through Prague to the Interior Ministry under police supervision. Demonstrators said the ministry is responsible for controlling immigration and should better surveil houses of worship to make sure there are no intolerant individuals in them; the march reached the ministry at around 13:30 and dispersed shortly thereafter.
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