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Czech Republic: Only minor incidents at today's competing protests over immigration

18.7.2015 22:16
Competing demonstrations against receiving refugees and in favor of receiving them, Wenceslas Square, Prague, 18 July 2015 (PHOTO:  bau)
Competing demonstrations against receiving refugees and in favor of receiving them, Wenceslas Square, Prague, 18 July 2015 (PHOTO: bau)

In the center of Prague on Wenceslas Square today there were different events organized by those opposed to immigration and by those expressing solidarity with refugees. The most dramatic situation occurred at around 19:00 at the bottom of the Square.

Participants in the "pro-immigration" demonstration attempted to block the right-wing extremists' march by sitting on the ground. The right-wing extremists threw two smoke bombs at them.

Police otherwise kept both groups separated. Demonstrators supporting immigration called on the police to disperse the aggressive assembly of right-wing extremists, but officers did not respond to their requests.  

Approximately two hours before that, when participants in the "anti-immigration" demonstration began to gather, the groups shouted slogans back and forth. "Don't give the Nazis a chance" and "We sort garbage, not human beings" chanted the pro-immigrant group, while their opponents chanted "Nothing but the nation", "You are white niggers" and "Go back to Africa".


"Our forefather Čech was an immigrant too"

The first assembly began at around 14:00 at the bottom of Wenceslas Square, when more than 300 people expressing solidarity with refugees gathered. The convener of the demonstration, Romana Červenková, said that while she is Muslim herself, she was not just there for Muslims, "but for Christians, Jews and Muslims".

"We should cut into our own comfort just a bit and aid these people. Only then can we be proud of ourselves, to say nothing of the fact that receiving 1 500 people represents no hardship whatsoever for the Czech Republic," she said.  

Červenková admitted that one impulse for her engagement in demonstrations supporting refugees is that she encounters xenophobic opinions in her own family. The event was organized by members of the "Stop Hatred" initiative, which arose in response to an "anti-refugee" demonstration at the beginning of July during which participants carried mock-ups of gallows.  

"In response to the increasing displays of racism, undemocratic opinions, and xenophobia across our entire society we have decided to establish the Stop Hatred platform. Our aim is to actively stand up to exclusion, intimidation and the spreading of panic. In a situation like the one we have today, staying silent and treading water just helps legitimize hatred," documentary filmmaker Apolena Rychlíková explained.

One of the slogans carried by pro-immigration demonstrators today read "Our forefather Čech was an immigrant too". The reference is to a legendary figure popularized during the late 19th century.


Challenge to the "inadaptables":  Redeem yourselves by combating immigration!

At 15:00 approximately 100 opponents of receiving refugees gathered at the statute of St. Václav in the upper part of Wenceslas Square. At the beginning of the assembly a challenge to "inadaptables" was read, urging them to "redeem themselves" by combating the reception of refugees.  

The demonstrators then set out on their march. First they headed down Vodičkova Street and were slated to head for Prague Castle.  

Gallows not a problem, but "penises" are

Police officers confiscated a banner carried by demonstrators supporting refugee reception which ironically commented on their opponents using an image of a penis. While the mock-ups of gallows carried on 1 July did not strike police as crossing the line, the penis image evidently did.  

The participants in the demonstration expressing solidarity with immigrants remained in place at the bottom of the square, preparing to block the march by those demonstrating against refugees. Police officers kept the two groups separated and did not consider chants of "You're all going to hang!" enough reason to intervene against the opponents of immigration who shouted them.  

Okamura says it is "extreme" to receive refugees

At around 17:30 the demonstration by National Democracy began, featuring an appearance by Tomio Okamura. He called the country's currently-serving politicians (save himself) "extremist", as well as the European Union.

Okamura also said the reception of thousands of refugees from Africa is "extremism". He was succeeded at the microphone by the chair of National Democracy, Adam B. Bartoš, who criticized the Government in particular.

"The Government is waffling, it is not telling the truth, it is not telling you that each immigrant brings his entire family with him," Bartoš said. He called the refugees "aliens" and enumerated the amount of money he believes their reception will cost the state.

"Even if you just want to treat these people, who are full of various diseases, it will cost billions," Bartoš claimed. The event was interrupted at one point by a youth who approached the podium shouting "Shut up already!"


A group of organizers lunged at him, pushing him back into the crowd. Shortly after the youth was shoved to the ground, the police anti-conflict team ran up and pulled him away.

bau, mik, voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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