Pro-refugee demos throughout Europe, Czech Police detain Romani activist again over flag
Czech Police detained Romani activist Ivana Mariposa Čonková in Prague yesterday immediately prior to the beginning of a demonstration there for an "Open Europe", one of several such events held throughout the continent. Although the officers did not initially inform her why she was being detained, it later turned out that it was because she was holding a Czech flag altered to feature elements of the international Romani flag.
Čonková told news server Romea.cz that police never asked her for identification. After she was taken to the police station, she alleges that she was surrounded by a total of eight officers who would only responded to her request for an explanation by saying: "We're not going to tell you anything, now is not the appropriate time."
The activist has also protested the disproportionate aggression used by police during their entire intervention. Video footage of the officers posted to the Facebook profile of the group called "Against Hate Speech" (Proti projevům nenávisti) shows the group of both plainclothes and uniformed officers refusing to tell her why they are detaining her.
Čonková repeats her question several times before an officer tells her the flag is the reason. Police released her after about 20 minutes and have apologized for detaining her.
"A superior officer burst into the station and ordered the police to return the flag and apologize to Ivanka. He said they had been following an old ordinance that no longer applies," activists with "Against Hate Speech" posted to Facebook.
Čonková later said she intends to sue over the officers' procedure. Evangelical clergyman Mikuláš Vymětal posted to an online discussion on news server Romea.cz that he did his best to aid Čonková.
"The officer who spoke with me said that if I were to file a complaint he would charge me with failing to obey police instructions," he said. "I have a rather good relationship with the police, but the behavior of officers at these demonstrations, where they have ignored people carrying gallows, ignored open displays of anti-Semitism and racism, and then the fact that they have repeatedly focused on the Czech-Romani flag, cannot be called anything but shameful!"
This is not the first time Čonková has been removed from participating in a demonstration by the Czech Police because she has been holding a Czech-Romani flag. The previous incident was reported on here.
More than 100 000 people across Europe express support for refugees
More than 100 000 people expressed their solidarity with refugees and demonstrated on the streets of European capitals for more welcoming immigration policies yesterday. Demonstrators in London were variously estimated at between 90 000 and 100 000 people carrying banners reading "Welcome Refugees" or "Refugee Lives Matter".
The Associated Press reports that as many as 30 000 people demonstrated in Copenhagen. A large demonstration against immigrants was held in Warsaw, however.
Agence France-Presse reported that thousands demonstrated against immigrants in Warsaw, carrying signs reading "Islam is the death of Europe", waving Polish flags, and setting off fireworks. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that fewer people, on the order of hundreds, demonstrated in support of refugees in Warsaw yesterday as well.
Pro-refugee demonstrators in London marched down Downing Street, where the office of the British PM is located. The march ended with speeches outside Parliament.
Speakers included many British politicians including the boss of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, and the newly-elected head of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who received large ovations, according to The Guardian. Corbyn said he was "aghast and shocked" by the way some media outlets have been reporting on refugees and called on Britons to open their hearts to those he called "desperate people".
Agence-France Presse also reported that one boy dressed up for the London event as Paddington Bear, a famous figure in British children's literature. "Paddington Bear was a refugee too," the boy's sign read.
In the children's story, Paddington is from Peru. After losing his parents, he catches a boat and disembarks in Britain, where a family takes him in.
In Denmark, where asylum policy has recently been significantly tightened because of the refugee crisis, and where incoming trains from Germany were recently canceled because their passengers were refugees, approximately 30 000 people demonstrated in favor of receiving refugees in Copenhagen while people expressed their support for refugees in other Danish cities as well. Similar demonstrations were also held in Dublin, Nice, Stockholm and Vienna.
The shared motto for all of the events was an English-language slogan, "Say it loud and say it clear: Refugees are welcome here!" In the German city of Munich, where as many as 10 000 refugees were expected to arrive yesterday, immigrants were supported by the players for the Bayern football team, each of whom held hands on the pitch with a refugee child prior to the beginning of their at-home match.
The Associated Press reported that 75 000 spectators applauded the club's gesture from the stands. Support for refugees was also expressed by the fans of London's Arsenal football club, who prior to yesterday's match unfurled a banner reading "Refugees Welcome".
Arsenal is donating GBP 1.50 from every ticket sold to the charity organization Save the Children, which is raising money to aid refugees. The fundraising drive was promoted during six matches of yesterday's Premier League round.
A demonstration supporting refugees was also held on Wenceslas Square in Prague. Those opposed to migration into Europe from Islamic countries also assembled there.
Hundreds of people attended both demonstrations; the groups were kept apart not just by the road at the top of the square, but by police. Hundreds of advocates for aid to refugees and opponents of immigration also attended two different events in the Slovak capital of Bratislava yesterday as well.
Competing demonstrations in Prague
Prague's assembly of those criticizing Islamism was somewhat larger than those demonstrating in favor of refugee reception. Those opposed to refugee reception gathered behind the statue of St. on one side of the road bisecting the square, while those expressing solidarity with refugees demonstrated in front of it.
Those opposed to Islamism chanted slogans about preserving the culture, independence and sovereignty of the Czech state. One speaker called those who criticize their position "blind, hypocritical multicultural crazies".
That speaker also said he believes the instinct for self-preservation is being denied the Czech Republic by the "Allah of America", by which he meant the United Nations, and by the "Mohammed from Brussels", a reference to EU criticism of the Czech rejection of mandatory quotas for refugee reception by EU Member States. Those demonstrating in favor of receiving refugees chanted slogans such as "Hate is No Solution", "Moving is Not a Crime" and "Stop the Fascist Masquerade in the Czech Republic - Fascists Will Not Save the Climate".
In addition to other speakers, their assembly featured art historian Milena Bartlová and clergyman Mikuláš Vymětal. Many speakers also reminded those assembled that the "real" Christian values, which the opponents of multiculturalism are fond of referencing, are actually based on respecting the value of human life and the idea of aiding one's neighbor.
"Be not afraid, stay peaceful. Be not afraid!" one speaker said, recalling the words spoken by Jesus to his disciples, a reference to the irrational fear that the arrival of people "from elsewhere" generates in some members of Czech society.
The anti-Islamists' demonstration was much louder than the one advocating for refugee reception thanks to their superior sound equipment. They were supported by a motorcycle demonstration calling itself "Bikers against Islam", which rode past in a column on the highway after several minutes of honking and revving their engines.
The assembly against xenophobia was convened by the Initiative "Against Hate Speech" and the Young Greens. Organizers anticipated more than 3 000 people could turn out based on Facebook RSVPs, but ultimately less than half that number did so.
The space in front of the National Museum had been reserved by those opposed to refugee reception for an event at 14:00. Their main speaker was Czech MP Tomio Okamura, the chair of the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" movement.
The assembly against xenophobia marched down Opletalova, Růžová and Senovážná Streets to náměstí Republiky (Republic Square). A fun afternoon had been prepared there with activities for children, information stands of organizations aiding refugees and a photographic exhibition.
The demonstrators then continued on to the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic. In addition to the detention of a Romani activist prior to the beginning of the event, Romea.cz was informed that a participant in the anti-Islam demonstration also physically attacked an organizer, but the person attacked declined to file a criminal report.
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