Czech Republic: 1 May assemblies against refugee reception and against xenophobia, right-wing extremists verbally assault journalists
Police in Prague say the 1 May demonstrations there have taken place without any bigger incidents. Minor verbal misunderstandings and scuffles were addressed by police through negotiations and no one was arrested.
One demonstration against tax havens and xenophobia was attended by 250 people and began on the Square of the Republic in Prague. Those protesters marched to the riverbank down Pařížská Street and continued to Jan Palach Square.
On the other side of the river, on the Letná Plain, a protest march held by the "Bloc against Islam" was attended by 400 people who peacefully marched down to the Klárov Park. At a demonstration on Slovanský Island, Adam B. Bartoš, the chair of the right-wing radical National Democracy party who has been charged with crimes against humanity, addressed the crowd.
The Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) held its 1 May demonstration in Vyškov, attended by Czech Prime Minister and party chair Bohuslav Sobotka. The Communists assembled at the exhibition grounds in Prague, while the college students' "Majáles" event featured a traditional allegorical parade from Kampa Park to the center of the city and then to the headquarters of Charles University in Prague.
Four hundred march against "illegal migration"
A total of 400 people, according to police, assembled on Letná for a protest march against "illegal immigration and the Islamization of Europe". Participants peacefully marched down to Klárov Park, where they ended the event.
The marchers did not attempt to approach the nearby Office of the Government, addressing the cabinet from where they were with calls for the tightening of immigration laws. They left their messages on milk cartons which they laid in front of the memorial to the Czechoslovak pilots who fought in WWII, saying the cartons were supposed to symbolize "Fortress Europe".
The march was convened by the "Bloc against Islam" and was led by Martin Konvička, who has been accused of inciting hatred against the religion of Islam because of his remarks on the issue. Some adherents of the group verbally attacked journalists who were filming their assembly on Letná, such as Filip Horký of DVTV and Richard Samko of Czech Television.
The procession of those opposed to immigrants from Islamic countries walked down to Klárov accompanied by police and chanting the slogans "We Don't Want Islam Here", "Get Rid of Bohuš" (i.e., the PM), and "We Want Border Protection", carrying banners with those same slogans. Many participants also held Czech flags, with one also carrying a Slovak flag.
On the streets leading down to the Office of the Government several police vehicles were prepared for the demonstrators. Once the event was over, police also used vehicles to block access to the nearby Mánes Bridge in order to prevent any eventual clashes between those opposed to migration and the participants in a competing assembly against xenophobia being held on the Alšovo Embankment directly across the river.
March against tax havens and xenophobia attended by 250 people
The 1 May march organized by the "From the Left against Xenophobia" (Zleva proti Xenofobii) initiative was attended by 250 people, according to police estimates. The demonstration focused on support for refugee reception and protested capitalism and the hiding of assets in tax havens, beginning on the Square of the Republic and marching to Jan Palach Square by way of Pařížská Street and the riverbank.
Protesters began their march by chanting the slogans "Expel the rich from the tax havens" and "Don't give the Nazis a chance". Initially at 11 AM, when the event was officially scheduled to begin, only a few onlookers were assembled.
The number of demonstrators did not increase until a group of anarchists arrived who had first assembled on Shooter's Island. That group included Russian student Igor Ševcov, who has recently become famous for being charged for allegedly participating in a Molotov cocktail attack on the home of Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnický last year.
On Wednesday Ševcov was acquitted for lack of evidence. The march he attended went forward without any complications.
Participants made it to Jan Palach Square, where, on the steps of the Rudolfinum concert hall and gallery, they continued to demonstrate and make speeches. Police reported that the organizers ultimately abandoned plans to continue their march to the Kampa Park on the other side of the river.
Bartoš makes an appearance on Slovanský Island
Adam B. Bartoš, the chair of the right-wing radical National Democracy party who has been charged with crimes against humanity, spoke to a demonstration on Slovanský Island. He said he had never committed any crimes in the past and that he would never back down in the future.
Police arrested him Thursday and charged him with three felony counts on Friday. The party's event began at 14:30 on Mariánské Square, from where they marched to the island.
Former Czech MP Miroslav Sládek attended the event as well. Other speakers there criticized the Government and spoke against receiving refugees
"I promised the police that I will not commit any more crimes. That doesn't mean I've gone soft, since I've never committed any crimes anyway," Bartoš said.
In his speech he stated that he does not regret either his actions or his words, that he will never stop what he is doing, and that he will not cave in to pressure. He also told those participating to resist the pressure that he believes will escalate against them.
The demonstrators on Mariánské Square filled the small parking lot reserved for Prague City Hall leadership. Several times they verbally assaulted the journalists present, in particular the camera people and reporters working for Czech Television.
Police officers warned the demonstrators that if they continued to assault the press, the police would shut the demonstration down. Once they were on Slovanský Island the former boss of the Republican Party, Miroslav Sládek, showed up.
Sládek did not address the assembly, but just spoke with some people in the crowd. He then left the event.
Some demonstrators began leaving the island during the demonstration, while others did not leave until shortly before 17:00. Various speeches were given.
Andrea Zoulová, spokesperson for the Prague Police, said that all of the demonstrations today took place without any bigger incidents. "There were some verbal misunderstandings and some scuffles. Nothing escalated, which means the officers resolved everything through negotiations. No one was arrested or imprisoned," she told the Czech News Agency.
On his party's website, Bartoš has reported that police confiscated his documents and performed a search of his home and the party headquarters. He claims to be the target of a "political trial" intended to intimidate National Democracy and its sympathizers.
Bartoš was arrested by police on Thursday afternoon and spent the night in a cell under preliminary detention. On Friday he was charged with three different counts of crimes of against humanity.
Police say he has committed those crimes through the contents of his books and other writings as well as his public speeches, allegedly inciting hatred of immigrants and Jewish people. Should be convicted he could face up to three years in prison.
Approximately 70 anarchists assemble on Shooter's Island
Approximately 70 anarchist men and women assembled on Shooter's Island at the spot where the first-ever workers' assembly was held in Prague on 1 May 1890, which members of the anarchist movement helped to convene in those days. After laying flowers at a memorial to those events, they headed for the Square of the Republic to attend the demonstration by the "From the Left against Xenophobia" platform, which was connected with the march against tax havens.
Local police supervised the assembly and found no reason to intervene against it. After a five-minute speech addressed by one participant to the assembly about the history of the 1 May demonstrations, five participants laid red roses at the plaque commemorating the 1890 demonstration.
The chair of the Czech Pirate Party, Ivan Bartoš, also welcomed those assembled. Participants carried a black and red flag on a shovel handle and a banner reading "We Are Destroying Patriarchy", held by two anarchist women.
1 May, according to the Anarchist Federation, is not just "Labor Day", a concept they believe has been abused and emptied of meaning, but is a particular reminder of the long history of social struggle. "On 1 May we connect the past with the present and the future. We present a vision of a society in which selfishness has been replaced by solidarity, discrimination has been replaced with equality, and social oppression has been replaced by economic self-administration," the Federation said in a statement on the occasion.
The anarchists also usually turn out to protest against various forms of racism and xenophobia. Their protests are frequently aimed against the procedures of the police.
Brno: Pranksters make fun of xenophobes
An announced assembly for a "national militia" in Brno ultimately turned out quite differently than one might expect. The demonstration turned into an action by pranksters parodying the ideas of right-wing radicals.
The pranksters wore no clothing and proposed, for example, establishing an "international militia". They ended the event by riding away on bicycles.
Police did not intervene at the scene. Police spokesperson Štěpánka Komárová said no intervention had been necessary.
Right-wing extremist debacle in Přerov
In the town of Přerov a march by right-wing radicals was announced, but far fewer people attended than organizers had anticipated. The number of police officers in attendance exceeded the number of participants.
DSSS assembled in Ústí nad Labem, lanuched collaboration with NS-LEV21
The extremist Workers' Social Justice Party (DSSS) convened an assembly on 1 May in Ústí nad Labem. Approximately 80 participants listened to the speeches these extremists repeat at all of their events.
An innovation this year was the participation of Petr Benda, a former MP and former chair of the ČSSD cell in North Bohemia, who today is leading the National Socialists - LEV21 (NS-LEV21) party. The closer affiliation of the two parties has therefore been confirmed.
"We, as National Socialists, have decided we will not run candidates independently during the regional elections this year and we are considering some kind of collaboration with other political entities," Benda said, thanking DSSS for inviting him to the rally. Members of the Romani community have run as candidates for NS-LEV21 in the past.
According to information obtained by news server Romea.cz, some Romani people are currently collaborating with the party, specifically in the town of Česká Lípa. DSSS chair Vandas, in addition to announcing that his party will run candidates in the elections this autumn, announced that he will be running for the Czech Senate from the Ústí Region.
Communists criticize the Government and legislation
Communists held their 1 May assembly at the exhibition grounds in Prague and criticized the Government, levels of social expenditure, and labor legislation. Czech MP Jiří Dolejš and Czech MP Marta Semelová, who is also a Prague city council member, spoke at the event.
The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) also presented its Senate candidates at the event. A group opposed to the party showed up at the Křižík Fountain at the exhibition grounds waving the flags of Ukraine and the United States of America and shouting anti-communist slogans.
"Honor to Labor!" Dolejš greeted the half-full amphitheater near the fountain. "We are living in a country that has a Government that is proud of how it's ruling, but ultimately all Governments say they're proud. They are governing by pretending we all have nothing but social security awaiting us. Unfortunately, I believe that this country's one million impoverished people, half a million unemployed people, and pensioners who cannot live on their pensions have their own views of that security."
Dolejš said the current Government has an easier position because it is following the era of former PM Petr Nečas (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) and the economic crisis. As for Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), Dolejš said that while the minister pretends he knows how to collect taxes, he would probably prefer for the investigation of the "Stork's Nest" scandal in which he is involved to close as soon as possible.
"It's possible that he'll get a few million more out of the small business people, but he is as afraid to ask for a solidarity tax from big capital as the Devil is of the cross," Dolejš said. He did admit the current Government has raised the minimum wage.
"However, we are still earning just a fraction of what neighboring states with comparable economic levels are earning," Dolejš said. He also criticized labor unions for not proceeding consistently enough in their negotiations.
"The slogan of 'An End to Cheap Labor' is not enough - better-paid work is what's needed," Dolejš said. In his view it is necessary to improve protections for employees and labor legislation and to increase social expenditures by the state overall.
Semelová moderated the assembly and also gave a speech. "The first of May is about defending labor, defending a dignified life and social security," she said.
The Communists began to assemble near the fountain at 8 AM, and by 10:30 the seating was half-full. Books and brochures were sold from stands and fliers were given away along with copies of the party's Haló noviny daily.
The party also introduced its candidates for the autumn Senate elections. The vast majority of participants were senior citizens who sat on the benches or strolled past the stands.
As is traditional, the former chair of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Miloš Jakeš, attended the 1 May celebration. The 93-year old representative of the Communist regime gave autographs to those who asked for them.
Opponents of the party carried the flags of NATO, Tibet, Ukraine and the United States of America. They also carried cardboard signs with anti-Communist slogans such as "Communist proletariat? Liars and murderers!".
Some of the protesters wore t-shirts with anti-Communist motifs and one wore a sweatshirt with a portrait of Milada Horáková, a Czechoslovak politician executed in 1950 by the regime. Another group of anti-Communists waited in front of the entrance to the exhibition grounds, where they hung a banner reading "Red Monsters" and reminded passers-by of the execution of Horáková.
Verbal conflicts arose between the Communists and their counter-protesters. An anti-conflict police team and other officers patrolled the scene but did not have to intervene.
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