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Czech Republic commemorates Velvet Revolution, Prague Police arrest two right-wing extremists

18.11.2017 13:25
The assembly at the Albertov university area in Prague, Czech Republic on the state holiday of 17 November 2017 to mark important events in Czech history on that date in 1989 and 1939.
The assembly at the Albertov university area in Prague, Czech Republic on the state holiday of 17 November 2017 to mark important events in Czech history on that date in 1989 and 1939.

Yesterday the inhabitants of the Czech Republic commemorated the anniversary of the events that transpired on 17 November 1989 and 1939. The biggest number of such events was held in the capital, Prague.

Thousands of people went to Wenceslas Square and to the 17 November memorial on Národní třída. Politicians also visited the memorial beginning in the morning to lay flowers there or light candles.

Andrej Babiš, chair of the ANO movement, encountered loud resistance from protesters at the monument, and people also shouted at the chair of the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement, Tomio Okamura, when he arrived to pay his respects. Police officers arrested two Workers' Social Justice Party (DSSS) demonstrators for failure to obey instructions.

The DSSS event was held in the lower part of Wenceslas Square and was attended by 100 people. After giving speeches, the organizers cancelled their planned march to the Old Town Square.

Some DSSS supporters, however, set out along Na Příkopě Street to Senovážné náměstí, where they engaged in minor clashes with riot police. "We arrested two people on suspicion of misdemeanors. They were taken to the police station and documented," police spokesperson Tomáš Hulan told the Czech News Agency.

Hundreds of candles were lit yesterday evening at the 17 November memorial, which is mounted on the wall of the Kaňkův Palace on Národní třída. The first politician to arrive there just after 8 AM yesterday was Babiš.

Those opposed to him charged him with disrespecting the remembrance site and reminded him of his alleged collaboration with the Czechoslovak State Police during communism and the "Stork's Nest" farm subsidy scandal for which he is being investigated. The ANO chair said the protesters had the right to engage in freedom of speech, which is one of the achievements of the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

Czech MP Okamura (SPD) was greeted by some of those present at the memorial with whistling and shouts of "Shame!" Romani people were also on the scene to protest against him.

Czech presidential candidate Jiří Drahoš, on the other hand, was greeted at the memorial with an ovation and said that he appreciated the role played by former President Václav Havel, among others, in the Velvet Revolution. The chair of the Czech Senate, Milan Štěch, and the Czech Social Democratic Party's vice-chair, Petr Dolínek (ČSSD), also made it to the memorial, while the STAN movement was represented there by Jan Farský, Petr Gazdík and Vít Rakušan, TOP 09's boss Miroslav Kalousek made an appearance, and the chair of the Pirates, Ivan Bartoš, also made an appearance.

In the evening Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) also honored the anniversary of 17 November after returning from an informal EU summit in Gothenburg, Sweden. During the afternoon, thousands of people were attracted to Národní třída for the fourth year of the street celebration called "Korzo Národní" ("National Parade"), which is organized by college students.

People created a line of candles down the avenue that was dozens of meters long. In some places those attending the "happening" also formed a human chain.

Thousands of people also attended the "Concert for the Future" on Wenceslas Square that evening. Musical performances alternated with speeches there.

Some participants viewed the event as part of the presidential election campaign. Speakers frequently objected to Babiš and to Czech President Miloš Zeman.

Czech presidential candidate Michal Horáček attended the event and was alarmed that he was unable to address those gathered like the other presidential candidates who did so - Jiří Drahoš, Pavel Fischer and Marek Hilšer. Speaking on behalf of the organizers, Václav Němec told the Czech News Agency that it was their right to invite whomever they believed appropriate to speak.

When choosing speakers, Němec said organizers had taken into consideration the fact that Horáček has enough money for his own presidential campaign. That same evening the "National Memory" awards were given out at the National Theater.

The awards were accepted by former political prisoners František Lízna, Mária Matejčíková and František Suchý, as well as Otto Šimko, who was repeatedly persecuted because of his Jewish origin. Charles University also handed out its own awards for excellent educational achievements and exceptional instructors.

The "Arnošt z Pardubic" award was given to Professor Petr Charvát from the Pedagogical Department and to the team from the Law Department for their program called "Street Law - Experience the Law Differently". Jan Suda was awarded in memorium at the Karolinum building for his contributions to world science, his educational activities, and his popularization of science.

At the Hlávkova Dormitory people commemorated the events of 17 November 1939 in the morning. Vojmír Srdečný, who is 98 years old and who was a student in 1939, remembered his fellow students whom the Nazis either killed or sent to concentration camps.

Just before 2 PM a satirical allegorical parade also marched from náměstí Republiky, with participants drawing attention to different social problems through their costumes and signs. At Újezd there was an assembly called "The Truth Has No Alternative", where speakers warned against the manipulation of information that is underway in the media, including social media.

Events to mark the "Day of the Fight for Freedom and Democracy", as the state holiday of 17 November is known in the Czech Republic, were held in other locations besides the capital. Hundreds of people visited náměstí Svobody in Brno for a commemoration at which organizers handed out more than 1 000 tricolor badges.

In Jihlava there was a satirical theater performance, while in Liberec people assembled at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism and in front of the town hall. In České Budějovice representatives of several institutions used chalk to write DEMOCRACY in large letters on the cobblestones of the square, while students in Zlín marched to náměstí Míru.


ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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