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Prague City Hall joins Czech Government's "HateFree" campaign despite Prague City Assembly vote against it

6.5.2016 13:22
Mayor of Prague Adriana Krnáčová (2016). (PHOTO:  Pirátská strana,
Mayor of Prague Adriana Krnáčová (2016). (PHOTO: Pirátská strana,

Prague City Hall has decided to join the "HateFree Culture" campaign calling for tolerance of minorities and refugees despite a decision by the Prague City Assembly not to do so. The decision to join the campaign was taken on 3 May by the Prague City Council.

Prague City Hall's specific form of involvement in the campaign will be negotiated by Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) with the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion. Last Thursday the Prague City Assembly met to discuss whether to task Prague City Hall with calling itself a "HateFree Zone", but ultimately just adopted a resolution generally rejecting violence in response to the attacks on cafés and other businesses involved in the campaign that had occurred the previous weekend.

The Mayor's move is being criticized by opposition Prague City Assembly members representing the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), who characterize it as "populist". "The HateFree project is not pursuing a controversial aim, it is not attempting to back a certain group, but to create dialogue, and thanks to that effort, problems are being discussed. The idea is that people should not be treated aggressively because of their religious faith or skin color," the Mayor responded in a press release.

The Mayor believes joining the campaign is a gesture of condemnation for all displays of aggression. The "HateFree Culture" Initiative of the Czech Government's Agency for Social Inclusion has been financially supported by both the EU and Norway Grants and is running for three years.

Its aim is to respond to hate speech online and in everyday life. The symbol of the "HateFree" campaign is a pink sticker with white lettering that businesses involved in the campaign put on their doors or storefronts.

"Essentially, this is just about our joining this project and supporting the idea of it. This is a gesture through which we are sending the clear signal that we condemn all displays of aggression," the Mayor said.

Filip Humplík, chair of the Prague cell of ODS, said he believes this is a "populist" step and that Krnáčová is acting in contravention of the City Assembly's decision. "I've uncompromisingly condemned the attacks on Prague cafés and the painting of the Nazi swastikas. However, I cannot approve of Madame Mayor's non-standard steps. She is again demonstrating, as she repeatedly has, that democratic rules are foreign to her," he said.

The Prague City Assembly's vote on whether Prague City Hall should join the campaign failed to pass by just two votes. The intention of the proposal was to express support for the places attacked.

The Czech Government has also condemned the attacks. The vandals chose their targets according to whether the business owners were promoting the "HateFree" slogan.

Police are investigating seven cases and looking for the culprits. They are wanted for felony vandalism committed by means of graffiti, inciting hatred and the suppression of the rights and freedoms of members of a group, and criminal sympathy for a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms, for which they would face up to three years in prison after being apprehended, charged, tried and convicted. 

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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