Czech police intervene against neo-Nazi march, students counter-protest
Approximately 70 neo-Nazis gathered on Malinovský Square in Brno today for an assembly and march convened by the neo-Nazi Workers' Youth (Dělnická mládež - DM). Those opposed to neo-Nazism, including students, demonstrated against them.
Police ultimately had to intervene against several neo-Nazis. Tomáš Vandas, leader of the Workers Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) addressed those assembled.
At 14:30 those involved with the "It Doesn't End with November" (Listopadem to nekončí) movement gathered near the statue of the first President of an independent Czechoslovakia, T.G. Masaryk, on Komenský Square. The movement's message is that democracy must be constantly cultivated and developed; after 15:00 its followers moved to Denisový Orchards to demonstrate against the neo-Nazi march.
The students said they refuse to passively stand by while racism takes hold in the country's political dialogue and that they reject the neo-Nazis appropriating the legacy of International Students' Day. Their manifesto, in Czech and English, can be read here.
News server Romea.cz reported live in real time online on the events in Brno:
The "It Doesn't End with November" (Listopadem to nekončí) movement is celebrating its success. Those opposed to neo-Nazism greatly outnumbered the promoters of extremism and neo-Nazism. "Ladies and gentlemen, you are great! Several hundred of us have reminded everyone that there are struggles for democracy and freedom every day, and in the sprit of that principle we have successfully escorted the neo-Nazi demonstration out of Brno. Brno does not belong to the Nazis, it doesn't end with November! Thanks!" the organizers of the protest against the DM posted to Facebook.
Police officers ultimately managed to nip the risk of conflict in the bud and it is already calm in Brno. Police pushed the neo-Nazis back to the Hotel Grand and the students walked from the train station to Svoboda (Freedom) Square, from which they gradually dispersed. "Police accompanied the neo-Nazis to the train station and other small groups of them dispersed throughout the city," our correspondent reports.
Vlastimil Pechanec, who was convicted of the racially motivated murder of Otta Absolon, a Romani man, in the town of Svitavy, is among the small group of aggressive neo-Nazis. He was released on probation this past June. His original sentence was 17 years.
The situation in Brno has escalated. After the official portion of their demonstration was over, the neo-Nazis got into a conflict with their opponents, approximately 500 of whom were gathered there. Police officers allowed the neo-Nazis to cross the intersection of Nádražní and Husova streets and to approach the spa where the students were shouting anti-Fascist slogans. "The neo-Nazis did their best to start a conflict with their opponents. Polcie intervened, I saw them arrest two neo-Nazis," our correspondent reports. One opponent of neo-Nazism was also arrested. "For the time being we have arrested one youth from the ranks of the students and brought him in for questioning because he injured a Workers' Party member. However, the police maneuvers are still underway even though the situation is calming down," Andrea Straková, spokesperson for the South Moravian Regional Police, told the Czech News Agency.
The neo-Nazis have set out on their march through Brno. "The parade is very spread out, but there are not a lot of people in it," our correspondent reports from the scene. The neo-Nazis are chanting slogans such as "Radically, Socially, Nationally" or "Velvet Fraud" (a reference to the 1989 Velvet Revolution, which began on 17 November). Other slogans criticize capitalism.
Tomáš Vandas, the DSSS leader, has spoken to about 70 of his fans. He was followed by Matthew Heimbach of the American racist movement Traditionalist Youth Network. "Heimbach's speeches were against Communists and Marxists," our correspondent reports from the scene.
"For the time being there are about 50 people here. People are walking by, not joining the neo-Nazis. I see a few flags, it still doesn't look like a big action," our correspondent reported from the scene just before 14:00, when the DM demonstration was supposed to begin.
"We will not blockade the neo-Nazis, but we want to make it clear that 17 November is International Students Day and we do not want it to be exploited by the spiritual successors to those who shot students to death on this same day in 1939," said Miriam Kanioková, one of the organizers of the student action "It Doesn't End with November" (Listopadem to nekončí).
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