VIDEO: 42 promoters of the Workers' Party, including Vandas, Kotáb, Štěpánek, Zbela and Šlégrová, arrested in Prague
Today police arrested 39 adherents of the neo-Nazi Workers' Party (Dělnická strana - DS) in Ječná street in the centre of Prague, including party chair Tomáš Vandas, after they did not obey a call to disperse and marched towards Czech Radio instead. Police spokesperson Eva Miklíková reported the incident to ČTK. Other DS top leaders were also arrested, such as Petr Kotáb, Jiří Štěpánek, Martin Zbela and Lucie Šlégrová.
Several dozen riot police intervened against the demonstrators. Adherents of the party were protesting the fact that Czech Radio has refused to broadcast some of its election ads.
The original gathering of about 60 people on Palacké náměstí was dispersed by a city official. He justified the dispersal by saying Vandas had referred to National Socialism in his speech. Public gatherings can take place on Palacké náměstí without notifying officials.
"At around 14:00, about 50 participants gathered on Palacké náměstí. There were then speeches during which statements were made aimed at disseminating ethnic and racial intolerance. For this reason, the representative of the Prague town hall who was present warned the conveners of the gathering just before 14:30 that they had committed a misdemeanour agains the law on assembly, ended the gathering and called on those present to disperse. He gave them sufficient time to do so. Given that they did not respond to his repeated calls to disperse, he called the Czech Police to intervene," says the press release of the Czech Police.
The participants did not disperse even after being called to do so by police officers. A group of riot police then surrounded the gathering and police officers took down everyone's personal information.
Undaunted, the DS promoters set off on an unpermitted march toward Czech Radio. Police blocked their path immediately on the square, confiscated their flags, and arrested three of them after a brief scuffle.
"Even though police officers from the Anti-Conflict Team negotiated with the participants and explained the possible results of their behaviour to them, they ignored these warnings and set off on an unannounced march toward Czech Radio. Police gave them room to disperse peacefully and called on some of them to pack up the flags they were carrying on their march. Three of them did not obey the call and were therefore arrested in Na Moráni street and taken into the local police station to give statements under suspicion of having committed a misdemeanour against public order. They were subsequently released," the press release says.
The next police intervention took place in Ječná street near náměstí I. P. Pavlova, to which 39 demonstrators marched. Police blocked their way and took them all in to the nearest police station on suspicion of having committed misdemeanours against the law on assembly and failure to obey a police officer's order. The police recorded the personal information of all those assembled and will interrogate them later. "They will all be informed by the relevant authority which will conduct administrative proceedings against them," Miklíková said.
Dozens of riot police, anti-conflict team members and uniformed police officers participated in the intervention. The police blocked the highly-frequented Ječná street for more than half an hour, making it impossible for cars and trams to drive through. Several police vans arrived at the scene as well as other vehicles.
Last week Czech Radio refused to broadcast two of the party's ads which contained sentences such as: "We reject the government policy of Gypsy racism when the Gypsies are paid from our taxes so they do not have to work and spend their free time harassing decent people." Radio management came to the conclusion that it would be breaking the law if it aired the ads. The party has filed criminal charges against the radio director on suspicion of interfering with the preparations and course of an election or referendum. The radio is also preparing to file criminal charges against the ads.
Czech Radio and Czech Television have also refused to broadcast some ads by the nationalist National Party (Národní strana). Party chair Petra Edelmannová said today she will ask the court to annul the EP elections, but she will not be filing suit. Czech Television has already filed criminal charges over the ad. According to Czech PM Jan Fischer, broadcasting the ad would be grounds for charges to be pressed for the crime of instigating hatred and/or the restriction of human rights and freedoms against a group of people, or for defamation of a nation, ethnic group, race or conviction.
Workers' Party promoters gathered most recently on Saturday. Roughly 50 extremists attended an announced gathering in Bílina na Teplicku. About 200 Roma protested against them. A police cordon separated the two groups and prevented any incidents from taking place.
Interior Minister Martin Pecina has decided to propose the government file suit with the Supreme Administrative Court and ban the activity of both ultra-right wing parties. The government proposed dissolving the Workers' Party last year, claiming it was breaking the law and was close to extreme- right groups, in particular the neo-Nazi National Resistance (Národní odpor). However, the court rejected the proposal at the start of March, saying it did not contain enough convincing evidence.
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