Czech Republic: Opponents of Fascism demonstrate, less than 100 attend ultra-right event
Not quite 100 right-wing extremists, including hardcore neo-Nazis from the Workers' Youth, gathered in Prague today at the bottom of Wenceslas Square. Their plan was to march down National Avenue, but police had to reroute their procession, as their way was blocked by around 500 opponents of the neo-Nazis' plan to abuse International Students' Day to promote their ideology.
A counter-demonstration to the neo-Nazis called "Together against Fascism" was convened by the "NO to Racism" initiative. On Jungmannovo Square, about 100 meters away from the right-wing extremist demonstration, people from all walks of life gathered to protest against Fascism and racism.
In addition to anarchist-antifascists, there were people from academia, the Jewish community in Prague, NGOs, Romani people and squatters. Czech Senator Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) also came out to protest against Fascism and racism, as did Jozef Miker of the Equal Opportunities Party and Ivan Bartoš, the chair of the Czech Pirate Party.
People chanted slogans such as "Fascists, get a job", "Don't give Nazis a chance", "These are our streets", and "Black, white, together we fight". They carried banners reading "17 November does not belong to the Nazis", "The Gypsies are not to blame for your crappy lives", "The poor fight one another while the elites laugh", "Don't give Nazis a chance", "Stop Fascism and Racism", and the famous "No pasaran" ("They shall not pass").
Speeches were made by the antifascists against capitalism, which according to some speakers carries the seeds of Fascism within it. For their part, the right-wing extremists said they were gathered for what they called an "anti-regime action."
The chair of the ultra-right DSSS party, Tomáš Vandas, made a speech criticizing the EU, alleged restrictions on freedom of speech and all post-1989 governments for stealing away national assets. A representative of the Jungen Nationaldemokraten, the youth organization of the German neo-Nazi NPD party, also gave a speech.
The German speaker criticized capitalism and globalization and called for a strong "Europe of nations". The organization also brought its banner to the demonstration.
During their parade through the city center, the ultra-right extremists waved flags with the Bohemian lion or the logo of the DSSS and chanted the slogans "Radically, socially, nationally", "Europe, youth, revolution", "Nothing but the nation" and "Bohemia for the Czechs". After two hours, Vandas ended the assembly with a brief speech in which he called those participating in the event "the one true opposition to the current regime".
The neo-Nazi march ultimately made it through the city, accompanied by police officers, without any conflicts and the antagonistic groups did not clash. After the neo-Nazi march was diverted, the anti-racist procession set out along a previously unannounced route toward the right-wing extremists but was blocked by the police on National Avenue.
Police blocked the anti-racists the same way their counterparts on 17 November 1989 blocked the student demonstration that launched the Velvet Revolution in communist Czechoslovakia. Today, just like 24 years ago, the demonstrators were blocked in by police from both sides and had nowhere to go.
City Hall representatives and police kept the anti-racists in place until the neo-Nazis, of whom there were many fewer in the streets, were safely out of range of their opponents. Some NGO people in the anti-racist demonstration bought flowers at a nearby stand as a joke and offered them to the police, just like the students did back in November 1989.
The police officers refused to take the flowers today, with one exception. One riot cop took the tulip offered him and immediately offered it to a young lady standing across from him, but when she refused it, the officer left the flower on the street.
Elsewhere in Prague a carnival parade with masked figures called the "Velvet Fair" (Sametové posvícení) was organized by civic initiatives from the Fór_um platform. Around 200 participants celebrated this anniversary of the rise of civil society and drew attention to current topics such as prejudice resulting from hate marches by "decent people" against "inadaptables", the systematic destruction of the landscape, and aggressive advertising.
This was the second year this satirical march has taken place in Prague. This year participating organizations included Greenpeace, Slave of Race (Otrokem rasy) and Greenpeace.
Elsewhere in the Czech Republic, around 100 Romani people gathered in Ostrava for an assembly called "For Peace Between People". "We, Romani people and members of the majority population, have decided to hold another peaceful gathering in Ostrava on the occasion of the state holiday, starting on Sunday, 17 November at 14:00 on Svatopluk Čech Square in the Přívoz quarter. At our last assembly on 28 October we clearly said NO to racism, and during our spontaneous march to the Halfway House, which had become the target of an absurd attack by neo-Nazis just a few weeks earlier, we thoroughly and unequivocally sent the message that this is our home too!" organizers of the gathering wrote in their announcement of the event.
Last month, when approximately 600 Romani people in Ostrava successfully stood up to the neo-Nazis, racists, and other extremists, a simultaneous demonstration of solidarity took place in Prague to support them. Today the Ostrava movement expressed its simultaneous support for the blockade of the neo-Nazis on Jungmannovo Square in Prague.
Today's event in Ostrava also reminded local politicians in particular that Romani people are adding their voices to those of a certain part of the majority population and that they expect, in accordance with the law and with the legacy of 17 November, that politicians will finally start getting involved in the problems suffered by the Romani residents of Ostrava and start treating them like equal partners. The demonstrators' primary demand was for a clear condemnation of the anti-Romani, violent demonstrations and marches in Ostrava that are violating the laws of the Czech Republic and are being organized by groups and individuals who openly espouse neo-Nazism.
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