Supporters of Czech President march through Prague chanting slogans against Islam, their opponents force them to re-route
Yesterday roughly 300 people assembled in Prague to support Czech President Miloš Zeman and express their disagreement with Czech migration policy, which they view as endangering the country. They also criticized Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) and other members of Government, the late President Havel, intellectuals and students.
Organizers had originally planned to march on the Office of the Government once the demonstration was over. Some of those attending the event headed from the starting point on Letná Plain to Betlémské náměstí on the other side of the river in the Old Town.
Xenophobic Ortel band supports Zeman
The event began with the singing of the natoinal anthem, followed by speeches and an appearance by Tomáš Ortel, the frontman for the Ortel band, infamous for its xenophobic lyrics, who used to perform in a neo-Nazi music group as well. Demostrators were holding banners reading "Long live Zeman" or green cards with the President's photograph on them.
"Let's speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, only then can we resist the pure evil that wants to erase our country from the map, the minions of whom have blockaded Prague today," Julie Královská said in a speech addressing those assembled. The audience rewarded her words with loud applause.
Other speakers declared that they were demonstrating against the existing media outlets and politicians, demanding that the "traitors" resign: "Can we believe the Government and the Prime Minister?" asked organizer Jiří Dlouhý. "NO!" the assembled people answered.
Another speaker said that the "superior Czech intellectuals who despise working people" were assembling on the squares of Prague for the state holiday. The demonstrators consider one such representative to be Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL) and his party.
Roman Bakala of the "Bloc against Islamicization" warned in his speech of an incident on Jan Palach Square, where some counter-demonstrators played the Muslim call to prayer at a "Bloc against Islamicization" demonstration. "The people who did that are those whom we must fear the most in the future, these are people paid by foreign governments, students," he told the assembly.
During the demonstration a banner was unfurled on the building of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (UMPRUM) that read "Islam" and featured an enormous heart. A recording was also played of a muezzin singing the Muslim call to prayer.
Supporters of Adam B. Bartoš and Zeman march through Prague, their opponents blockade their procession
Some of those attending the event on Letná Plain set off on a march to Betlémské náměstí, the same destination as another march being held by supporters of the ultra-right. When the procession passed by the Israeli Embassy, the crowd began to chant "We don't want Israel here" and other vulgar slogans such as "Fuck Allah, burn down the mosques".
Opponents of the Islamophobes attempted to prevent them from marching to Betlémské náměstí and stopped them on Jan Palach Square near the Faculty of Arts of Charles University. Both camps were separated by riot police with dogs.
Approximately 200 people were on either side. Ultimately the pro-Zeman demonstrators marched under police supervision down side streets to reach their destination.
The opponents of the march first attempted to blockade the marchers from crossing the Mánes Bridge, with approximately 30 people sitting down on the road in traffic to do so. Police officers accompanied the parade of Zeman supporters across the bridge to Jan Palach Square.
Those participating in the march carried banners reading "Long live Zeman", Czech flags, and EU flags with the circle of stars crossed out. Approximately 100 opponoents of the march blockaded Široká Street in the Jewish Quarter, shouting "Not one foot in the Jewish Town".
Police then re-routed the march down Křížovnická Street, which was then also blocked by the counter-demonstrators. They taunted the marchers by chanting "Your children will be like us" and "Run on home, its not time for you".
The marchers responded by whistling loudly. Police used a megaphone to call on the counter-demonstrators to stop blocking Křížovnická Street or they would use force.
Traffic on Křížovnická Street was blocked and trams were unable to get through. Ultimately the officers managed to lead several dozen participants in the pro-Zeman march through other streets to their destination of Betlémské náměstí.
The marchers listened to more speeches there, but a resident in one of the buildings on the square loudly played a recording of famous song by Marta Kubišová, associated with resistance to the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, in an effort to drown them out. The demonstrators sang the Czech national anthem again and dispersed at approximately 18:30.
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