Czech Republic: Thousands call on Government to stand up to hatred
Last Wednesday's demonstration on Wenceslas Square in Prague demonstrated how hot-button problems related to the hysteria being spread on the topic of refugees in the Czech Republic are being dealt with. The event sparked a more or less immediate reaction and an Open Letter to the Czech PM and Interior Minister was posted online within 48 hours.
The letter was initiated by individuals across the spectrum of opinion who coalesced around the stopnenavisti.cz platform ("stophatred.cz"), where it is possible to add one's signature to the letter. "In relation to the rising number of 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 take a stand against exclusion, intimidation, and the spreading of panic. In a situation like today's, silence and treading water merely serve to legitimize hatred," documentary filmmaker Apolena Rychlíková, a spokesperson for the platform, said on 3 July.
As of noon Friday, 3 500 people had signed the letter despite its being spread predominantly through online social networking sites alone; as of publication today that number had grown to 8 892. In addition to initiatives and organizations such as the Ecumenical Academy, Jako doma (Make Yourself at Home), ROMEA, the Young Greens, Konexe and the Young Social Democrats, many dozens of public figures have also signed.
Signatories include the artists Helena Třeštíková, Moimir Papalescu, Barbora Kleinhamplová, Vladimír Kokolia and Radka Denemarková;the politicians Petra Kolínská, Dominik Feri and Václav Láska; college educators Miroslav Petříček, Milena Bartlová, Ivan O. Štampach, Ondřej Slačálek, Michal Pullman, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Charles University Mirjam Friedová and the Rector of Academy of Fine Arts Tomáš Vaněk; Charter 77 Petr Uhl and Petr Vránek; director of the ROMEA association, Zdeněk Ryšavý; chair of the Šalamoun (Solomon) group, John Bok; midwife Ivana Königsmarková; and parson Mikuláš Vymětal. "The broad response our letter has prompted demonstrates that a large segment of Czech society is not indifferent to what has beeen going on recently," activist Martin Marek, another spokesperson for the platform, said.
The demonstration on 1 July made a stir in particular through its unheard-of use of menacing symbols. Gallows threatening death to "traitors" were carried above the mob and one of the conveners used the same rhetoric.
The Czech Police, however, let the assembly march to the Office of the Government while simultaneously intervening against peaceful counter-protesters who did their best to stop the hateful display. In an open letter to Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, the platform warns of the fact that "demonstrations are perverted into hate marches promoting ideologies that directly contravene democracy and the rule of law" and that "those arrested and bullied by the police are those who oppose this hate, not those who are openly calling for it."
The letter also emphasizes that "a society based on the principles of fundamental human rights, which we consider the Czech Republic to be, must not permit itself to be destroyed by manipulators who abuse human discontent and fear to usurp police influence and the political space." It also calls on both constitutional officers to thoroughly investigate the death threats to "traitors".
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