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Prague council members for ODS say Government's EU-funded "HateFree" campaign is an example of left-wing "extremism"

1.5.2016 13:53
Prague City Hall (the New Town Hall) on Mariánské náměstí (PHOTO:  Petr Novák, Wikipedia)
Prague City Hall (the New Town Hall) on Mariánské náměstí (PHOTO: Petr Novák, Wikipedia)

Prague City council member Matěj Stropnický (Green Party/Trojkoalice) proposed earlier this week that City Hall become a "HateFree Zone", but his motion did not receive enough votes to pass. In a resolution that did pass, however, the City Council rejected violence no matter what political ideology inspires it.

The purpose of Stropnický's motion was to express support for the cafés, shops and other places that were spray-painted last weekend with Nazi symbols and various slogans. The Czech Government condemned the attacks on Wednesday.

The "HateFree Culture" campaign, which was targeted by the neo-Nazi vandalism, is a project of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion and is financially supported by the EU and the Norway Grants. "A week ago in Prague, a neo-Nazi group essentially threatened a group of people. We, here and now, should not be worried about defining whether something is left-wing or right-wing - we should be saying it's unacceptable," council member Petr Štěpánek (Green Party/Trojkoalice) said during the discussion.

The symbol of the HateFree campaign is a pink sticker with white lettering that businesses involved in the campaign can put on their doors or storefronts. "We Czechs have terribly short historical memories. I guess we still need stickers like that," council member Tomáš Jílek (TOP 09) said during the debate.

During the 1930s, Jewish shops in Nazi Germany were vandalized in similar ways to what happened last weekend in Prague. According to the chair of the Prague cell of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), Filip Humplík, it is wrong to threaten anybody with death, whether the person making the threat is an anarchist or a Nazi.

"Whether you're painting the Nazi swastika or the hammer and sickle, it's the same evil," Humplík said. The ODS members of the council refused to vote in favor of the motion, saying they believe the HateFree campaign is connected with left-wing extremism.

The ODS members of the council instead asked that the resolution be expanded to include condemnation of attacks perpetrated against the Řízkárna restaurant by anarchists, and Stropnický proposed adding the wording about condemning violence "no matter what political ideology" inspires it. All 44 of the council members present voted in favor of the first part of the resolution rejecting violence, while the proposal that City Hall itself join the "HateFree" campaign lacked two votes needed to pass.

The vandal responsible for last weekend's graffiti apparently chose to target the attitudes of the owners of businesses promoting the "Hate Free" slogan, which in the Czech Republic indicates tolerance toward minorities or refugees. Police are investigating seven cases from last weekend and are searching for the culprits.

The investigation has been expanded to include suspicions of felony property damage through graffiti, inciting hatred against a group or inciting the restriction of the rights and freedoms of the members of a group, and felony displays of sympathy for a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. Should the perpetrators be apprehended, charged, tried and convicted, they face up to three years in prison. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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