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Czech political scientists say Saturday's anti-Govt demonstrations were by the dissatisfied and the extremists, including a man convicted of racially-motivated murder

5.9.2022 17:19
The anti-Government demonstration on 3 September 2022 in Prague on Wenceslas Square. (PHOTO:  Richard Samko)
The anti-Government demonstration on 3 September 2022 in Prague on Wenceslas Square. (PHOTO: Richard Samko)

The anti-Government demonstrations in Prague this Saturday on Wenceslas Square, according to political scientists, were not just attended by the extremists who are pro-Russian and whom Czech PM Petr Fiala (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) has pointed out were its organizers, but also by people who wanted to express their dissatisfaction with the approach taken by the administration to solving the crisis on the energy market. Lubomír Kopeček, a political scientist from Masaryk University in Brno, told the Czech News Agency today dissatisfaction could cost the governing parties during the upcoming local elections, which will above all test big cities' trust in Fiala's cabinet. 

According to police, about 70,000 people gathered for a demonstration that lasted more than three hours. Called "Czech Republic First", the protest brought together citizens, organizations and political parties who disagree with current policy and want the cabinet to resign.

Fiala responded to the demonstration by saying it has been clear to see that campaigns of disinformation in favor of the Kremlin have been underway in the Czech Republic and that some people are succumbing to them. Russia, according to him, is waging economic war on EU Member States through the energy market.

The policy of the previous administration headed by former PM Andrej Babiš (Association of Dissatisfied Citizens - ANO) has left the Czech Republic absolutely dependent on energy from Russia, and the current cabinet is taking steps to rid itself of that dependency, the PM said. He added that everybody has the right to express their attitudes on issues.  

Extremists, those who fall for disinformation, and frightened people who fear energy price hikes

"Onstage there were people who actually are associated with quite extremely pro-Russian positions, and the words of Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) about their being close to extremism reflect reality," said Kopeček; on the other hand, the number of 70,000 demonstrators reflects a "very great dissatisfaction" with the administration's attitude toward resolving the crisis on the energy market. While Saturday's demonstration is being discussed as a protest against the Fiala administration, some who attended were protesting against pillars of the current democratic system and against alliances in union with the West, political scientist Jiří Pehe tweeted. 

In Pehe's view it is necessary to differentiate between the two motivations, as anti-system extremism is not the same thing as disagreeing with Government policy. Fiala's remark about the demonstration having been convened by pro-Russian forces is absolutely legitimate and correct in terms of the facts, according to Miloš Gregor of the Department of Political Science at Masaryk University. 

Members of those forces were among the protesters as well. "I don't dare estimate how big a proportion they were, but it's not just some small group," Gregor tweeted. 

However, it would not be fair to allege that it was just people of that mindset who gathered for the demonstration. People attended who are just desperate and unhappy and who wanted to demonstrate their dissatisfaction, Gregor said. 

Jan Charvát of the Department of Political Science at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Masaryk University tweeted that the group of people labeled "pro-Russian" is much more diverse and that such an assessment does not always apply to them accurately. Petr Kutílek, a political scientist who once was vice-chair of the Green Party, said those who attended the demonstration were mainly people who, on the one hand, are falling for disinformation and, on the other hand, feel economically endangered. 

Convicted racially-motivated murderer Pechanec and the chair of the DSSS, Tomáš Vandas, among the demonstrators 

The demonstration organizers have espoused the "Dog is Dead" (Chcípl PES) movement, among others, which arose during the COVID-19 pandemic and opposed the measures instituted to prevent the spread of the virus; speakers included the chair of the Tricolor movement, Zuzana Majerová Zahradníková, according to whom the Czech Government should halt its anti-Russian sanctions and its weapons supplies to Ukraine. Former Czech MP Lubomír Volný ("Free Bloc" - Volný blok) followed her with a call for all the nationalist forces in the Czech Republic to work together. 

Other speakers called for "peace" or declared their opposition to the vaccinations against COVID-19. They included the vice-chair of "The Free Ones" (Svobodní) and founder of the "Parallel Medical Association", Miroslav Havrda; the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia's candidate for President, Josef Skála; or health care worker Petra Rédová Fajmonová, who is running for the Senate for the "Right Respect Expertise" group (Právo Respekt Odbornost  - PRO).

Although prominent members of the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement were among the demonstrators, none spoke from the stage. Czech MP Jiří Kobza (SPD) called off his speech at the last moment. 

Neo-Nazis could clearly be seen among those attending the demonstration and several Romani community members had announced that they would be attending on social media as well. The flags of the DSSS also appeared above the heads of the participants and the convicted racist murderer Vlastimil Pechanec, who murdered Otto Absolon, a Romani man, in July 2001, took a picture there together with the chair of the DSSS, Tomáš Vandas.

ČTK, Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Demonstrace, DSSS, Extremism, Government of the Czech Republic



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