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Nazi debacle in Plzeň: 100 Nazis, six of them detained, 200 counter-protesters

Plzeň, 25.4.2010 14:46, (ROMEA)

Yesterday Jiří Strobach, magistrate of the central municipal district of Plzeň, dispersed a previously announced Nazi march shortly after it began. Deputy Regional Police Director Jaromír Kníže later told journalists the demonstration had been dispersed because the slogans on the clothing of some participants were most probably illegal. High Commissioner Jana Václavová told the Czech Press Agency that police had detained four people at the march, including a foreign national, and detained another two after it was dispersed.

Strobach said the gathering fundamentally deviated from its stated purpose as described to the authorities in January by the conveners, “support for political prisoners”. At the time it was announced, officials had no legal reason to ban the event. "Some of the speeches by the participants in this gathering (today) clearly showed that there was a fundamental deviation from the stated purpose of the gathering, and that is a violation of the law on assembly. Other laws were broken by speeches aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. We warned the organizers the law was being broken, but they did not correct the situation," the magistrate said.

"It has been determined that there is a suspicion that the crime of establishing, supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms has been committed. Several of the participants of this march committed this crime by wearing t-shirts with slogans that unambiguously gave us cause to initiate criminal proceedings against them,” Deputy Regional Police Director Kníže said.

The march of approximately 100 people set off after 14:00 yesterday, about one hour later than originally planned, and was accompanied by hundreds of police officers. The event was dispersed a few minutes later. Czech Press Agency reporters said the participants managed to walk only a few meters. They set off on their route shouting “Freedom for Political Prisoners!” Marchers carried black or red and white flags with the Bohemian lion and several banners. Police had checked the banners and flags prior to the start of the event to make sure they did not violate the law.

Those suspected of committing the crime of promoting the suppression of human rights include a 26-year-old native of Plzeň, a 32-year-old native of Ostrava, and a 22-year-old man from the southern Plzeň region, all of whom were wearing clothing with objectionable inscriptions. Václavová later specified that a 26-year-old foreign national was suspected of demonstrating sympathy for a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms due to a tattoo of an objectionable symbol on a part of his body clearly visible to others. Police later detained a 40-year-old man from the northern Plzeň region and a 20-year-old Praguer over slogans on their clothing. A 29-year-old man from Plzeň was also taken into custody on suspicion of committing a misdemeanor against public order. "The decision to initiate criminal proceedings against specific individuals will be made on the basis of expert evaluations,” Václavová said.

A cordon of police officers directed the marchers, some of whom were evidently German and Polish nationals, toward the bus station, preventing them from entering the center of town. At Husovo náměstí (Hus Square) officers recommended various routes for dispersal, and the demonstrators slowly left in small groups for their cars or for the bus station. Police were prepared to monitor the situation in the town for the rest of the day.

Police reported in a press release that "Around 100 people attended the march in support of political prisoners, and officers also noted about 200 counter-protesters dispersed in smaller groups throughout the streets of Plzeň.” The counter-protesters ended their gatherings once the extremists’ march had been dispersed. "Today we have succeeded in protecting Plzeň from the Nazis, they did not march through town. This is an enormous victory for democracy,” the news server Deník.cz quoted Jiří Metod Kasl as saying.

Czech Human Rights Commissioner Michael Kocáb was also in Plzeň. Deník.cz reported he was on hand to observe the march because during his time as minister he had learned that it was best to be directly at the scene of such events and not learn about them second-hand. Deník.cz quoted Kocáb as saying that civil rights protections required that such events not be banned outright, but the decision as to whether to permit a gathering to go forward should be made on the spot.

Police did their best to prevent conflicts between the marchers and counter-protesters, some of whom gathered on náměstí Republiky (Square of the Republic) with a banner reading “We Don’t Want Nazis Here”, and some of whom were moving around in small groups near the place where the march was to start. There were no direct clashes. "Had the march gone ahead along the route and at the time announced, we had information that the left-wing scene would gather with the intention of attacking the participants of the right-wing march," Kníže said.

Crowds of people also watched the march from the sidewalks. As many as 500 police from other regions were deployed to assist local officers. An anti-conflict team, police dogs, and officers on horseback were also deployed. Three armored transport carriers were deployed in the streets near the town center and the situation was monitored by helicopter. "The extent of the measures is the same as those we have taken in previous years,” Kníže said. He estimated the costs of the deployment at one million Czech crowns.

The right-wing extremists had announced their event as lasting from 13:00 until 18:00 and had counted on anywhere from 100 to 400 people attending. The march was convened by Tomáš Vondrášek, Michal Hilák and Marek Henzl. The Anti-fascist Action group says these individuals are members of the Plzeň Autonomous Nationalists. That group has participated in organizing right-wing extremist marches in Plzeň in the past. This was the third year in a row that extremists have marched through the town, but yesterday marked the first time authorities have dispersed their event on the spot.

Even though police had called on people to avoid the route of the march, residents were evidently not scared off. The main square and the places along the route were calm, with locals and tourists out on foot.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, Czech Press Agency, Deník.cz, Tn.cz, iDNES.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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