Czech Prime Minister: Police procedure during demonstration with gallows was absurd
The Czech Police are facing harsh criticism for the procedure they elected to follow during a recent hate demonstration when, instead of intervening against people carrying mock-ups of gallows and chanting racist slogans, they intervened against those counter-protesting them. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová have joined the criticism of the police.
The PM said he believes police are not permitted to tolerate threats of violence. "I consider it an absurd, weird situation for the police to intervene against the counter-protesters blocking the way of a strongly fanatical procession carrying gallows in their hands and taking no interest of those gallows and what they represent," he told news server iDNES.cz.
Sobotka said there is a need to reflect on the methodology of police procedure in the context of the currently valid law on assembly. "Police must remain neutral, but they cannot tolerate racist assault or threats of violence," he said.
In the PM's view, freedom of speech should not be abused to disseminate hatred, to make racist threats against entire groups, or to threaten with death those who advocate positions other than fascism. The Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister joined him in criticizing the police response.
"I was not at the demonstration, but the pictures from the media showing police officers ignoring demonstrators chanting racist slogans and carrying gallows while intervening against left-wing activists who attempted to stop the march makes a horrible impression," she posted to her Facebook profile. "Tomio Okamura is exploiting fear in society for his own political advertising. Calling for racial hatred, creating fear, and disseminating a mob hysterial is reprehensible not matter who does it, not just when an MP does it. I do not understand how someone, on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, can spread such racial hatred."
Police reported that the demonstration in the center of Prague against immigration and quotas and in favor of the Czech Republic leaving the European Union was attended by a total of 550 people, counter-demonstrators included. Riot police kept the two sides separate.
Officers intervened against activists who were attempting to block the march of the anti-immigrationists towards the Office of the Government by sitting on the sidewalk. Philipp Janýr, an activist and Austrian citizen of Czech origin, has filed a crime report against Czech MP Tomio Okamura (Freedom and Direct Democracy), the musician Aleš Brichta and journalist Adam B. Bartoš for convening the demonstration, telling the Czech News Agency that they had committed several crimes during their remarks to the assembly, such as inciting hatred against a group or individuals, defamation of a nation or race, and violence against a group or individuals.
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