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Czech Police refuse students access to 1989 memorial in advance of President joining anti-Islam activists for their event

17.11.2015 16:42
Czech President Miloš Zeman (second from right) with leaders of the Bloc against Islam singing the national anthem on 17 November 2015. (PHOTO:   ČT24)
Czech President Miloš Zeman (second from right) with leaders of the Bloc against Islam singing the national anthem on 17 November 2015. (PHOTO: ČT24)

Czech President Miloš Zeman addressed an event organized by the Bloc against Islam (Blok proti islámu - BPI) on the occasion of the state holiday today and said those who disagree with the receiving of migrants should not be "labelled" Fascists, Islamophobes or racists. BPI is against refugee reception.

After making his speech, the President sang the national anthem together with BPI chair Martin Konvička. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), on the other hand, called on the public not to turn the anger prompted by the terrorists against refugees.

"It is necessary to show tolerance for different opinions, everyone has the right to express their opinions in a free society, but opposing opinions must not be silenced," President Zeman told the people gathered at Albertov. He went on to say that abuse and labels are not arguments and that people should not label those opposed to Islam and to refugee reception as racists.

BPI supporters are calling for the absolute removal of Muslims from the Czech Republic and are against refugee reception. Supporters of neo-Nazi and ultra-right organizations have turned up at several of the anti-Islam events held in the country this year.

Zeman said that both in November 1939 and then in November 1989, people took to the streets to protest against "manipulation and the enforcement of just one correct opinion". The people gathered at Albertov responded by chanting "Long live Zeman".

"This nation deserves to govern itself, not to be dictated to by anyone from outside about what it should or should not do," the Czech President said. He is opposed to the European Union quota system for refugee redistribution.

Zeman said he believes that people are victims of a media "massage" on the question of the refugee crisis. He also called his critics - who shouted and threw eggs at him when he spoke at Albertov last year - a "roaring herd".

Security refused to allow students to access the specific memorial plaque to the students at Albertov because of the event. Czech Television reports that security did not want to allow the students to light candles at the plaque before noon even though Zeman was not scheduled to arrive there until 14:00.

The plaque commemorates the contribution made by students on 17 November 1989. Those events are what  today's holiday commemorates in the Czech Republic.

ČTK, mik, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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