Report from Prague's anti-EU demonstration: The little guys on all sides
The Ortel band is eagerly singing and the crowd is singing along. They are pathetically calling for a "leader", all that's missing is the Nazi salute.
Or maybe not. Close to the podium a little guy is giving the Nazi salute while dressed in a military uniform - and after a moment, those around him warn him that he is being caught on camera, so he stops doing it.
Not far away another person - neither old nor young - is showing off chains with Nazi swastikas around her neck. I see well-known faces from other neo-Nazi demonstrations in the crowd.
There are also curiosity-seekers - what else is going to happen? Others are raising their right arms with their hand clenched in a fist as the band plays.
"They can't ban us from doing this," another little guy laughs. People's eyes are glowing, finally they are a part of something big, the crowd is elevating their tired-out lives to something higher, almost holy.
People are satisfied because they are able to demonstrate their attitudes and feelings, which are that everything is the fault of:
1. Brussels bureaucrats and politicians, 2. Liberals, refugee-welcomers and optimists, 3. Anybody who disagrees with them.
Jana England Hrušková is photographing the counter-protesters who have made their way onto the sidewalk next to the assembly. Other amateur photographers join her after a moment.
The raised right arms holding mobile phones seem to symbolize a modern version of Nazism. It's difficult to forget the expression on the demonstrators' faces when the first shower of heckling begins to reach them, with those on the sidewalks calling them Fascists.
"We're not Fascists, we're patriots," repeats one little guy to another - with such a painfully contracted face that I feel sorry for him. "Nationally and Socialistically" I read on one of the banners - dear God, National Socialism, where have I heard of that before?
I go down toward the Můstek metro station at the bottom of Wenceslas Square, where anti-racist music is being played. Here, too, it's about socialism, the anti-racist and anti-xenophobic kind.
Socialist Solidarity has a little table here with petitions, and further on there are several young Communists in red t-shirts. Most of the people here, however, are folks who are non-ideological.
At the moment there are about 100 people there, mainly young ones, some of whom are dancing, especially the girls... beautiful girls. One of the women organizing gives the signal and those present rehearse their parts in the "Noise Olympics", as they call their intention to disrupt the rally convened by these leaders of anti-EU, fascisizing parties by making a lot of noise.
The people lift up their arms holding pans and spoons or pot lids, and we hear whistles and the sirens from several amplified megaphones. I add my part to the noise with a loud whistle.
People's eyes are glowing, finally they are a part of something big, the crowd is elevating their tired-out lives to something higher, almost holy. People are satisfied because they are able to demonstrate their attitudes and feelings, which are that everything is the fault of:
1. Racists and xenophobes, 2. Parties and politicians disseminating hatred, 3. Disinformation media outlets.
We walk up the square toward the statue of St. Václav on his horse. There we join the other counter-demonstrators who have already been impatiently making noise so they can drown out the Fascists and get rid of our own concerns and fears of the future.
Druggies and little guys in uniform
Between "us" and "them" there are little police officers in regular uniforms. The robocops show up later.
On the other side of the police barricade there are angry SPD supporters who came here to drown out the democrats and express their hope for the future, namely, that Fascism will get the European Union all to itself. They are calling us names: "Druggies... black mugs... bastards... inferior beasts... fucking gypsies...," etc.
The little guys in the uniforms are smiling and having a good time together. One unhappy lady has hung a sign from the neck of her black dog reading "I don't want Islam, they kill black dogs."
The demonstrators are also shouting at the police officers and telling them to intervene against us. We know, of course, that this is all just a game, and it's clear to see what will follow.
These nationalists passing themselves off as patriots had posted to Facebook ahead of the event messages such as: "The police will do all they can to protect the assembly of patriots from left-wing extremists... Expressions of support are even being sent to us by officers. Thanks."
Since I have been raised to the level of a "left-wing extremist", I feel young again. I shout along with the others: "Fascists, Fascists!"
We're making noise, I'm shouting and whistling (since I lazily left my pan and spoon at home). Is it extremist for democrats to not want totalitarianism?
One World and the Communists
A girl approaches me. "Hello, I was at the One World film festival and you were discussing a film with us afterwards," she says, "so what do you say to today's event?"
"I'm glad there are so many young people here who are bothered by Fascism and racism," I answer. At the human rights film festival, which is organized by People in Need, I had discussed a film about people who leave extremist movements with some students afterward.
After a moment I notice the young Communists - a small group of just a few little guys, but in their scarlet t-shirts they create a striking backdrop. One is holding a sign against xenophobia.
I can't help myself, I go over to him and ask: "Are you certain the leadership of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia is actually against xenophobia? Judging by what some of them say, it's probably the opposite."
"I am against xenophobia, and that's why I'm here," he answers. The young comrade standing next to him is more communicative and says that among the young Communists there are people who are against racism and xenophobia.
"So in that case you should replace the old guys as soon as possible," I tell him. He assures me that they have already begun to do just that.
Disrupting a Fascist rally
The moment is already upon us. It's come later than I anticipated, but it's here.
We have managed, with our "Noise Olympics", to disrupt the Fascist rally for more than an hour. Marine Le Pen, Tomio Okamura, and Geert Wilders have had to wait until the police moved us away before they could address the crowd.
The police are calling on us to refrain from our illegal behavior (yes, noise is illegal) and to leave Wenceslas Square, otherwise they will use force to push us back. They say we are breaking the law on assembly, but on the other side of the barricades several other laws are also being broken left and right and the little police guys are fine with it.
Is it illegal for democrats not to want totalitarianism? According to our laws, espousing hate and racism is a crime, we have quite a few statutes on the books about it.
Be that as it may, the police drive us away from our "crime scene". They do so despite the fact that we are there in support of our laws and want them to be upheld, while those who are shouting racist abuse and insults, who are giving the Nazi salute, who are showing off their Nazi swastikas and calling for a "leader" are instead being protected by the police.
The police intervention
The first wave of intervention begins. The riot units push us with their hands - I did almost fall over, but the officers proceeded much more correctly on this occasion than they have in the past.
The officers were not carrying shields or using truncheons - at least not in the places where I could see. Some young people sit down so the little guys in uniforms can't push them.
The officers arrested 10 of them. They could have proceeded more calmly and less fiercely, yes, but they did not get carried away or commit any exceptional brutality, as has happened on other occasions.
Remember those beautiful days when, for example, in Nový Bydžov, they rode horses straight at us while wielding truncheons? Back then we had barred the way of a march by neo-Nazis from the Workers Party and the little police guys brought their little police horses to protect the Nazis and got out the truncheons, too.
Those were the days! Naturally, in Prague they eventually did push us off of our ground, but it took them about a half an hour.
The anti-EU speakers didn't begin until after we were gone. I went back down to Můstek for just a moment.
Along the way I met many people carrying EU flags, including an enormous one. People were having a great time, the little guys were making noise, shouting, whistling, dancing and listening to music.
After half an hour I went down into the metro station. My back was killing me.
As I left I could still hear Tomio Okamura giving a speech in which he was promising everybody a beautiful world without all these little guys who don't smell or taste right to him. I give another whistle and yell "EEEEEUUUUW!"
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