Police disperse right-wing extremist march in Slovakia
Slovak Police intervened today against a march by extremists from the Our Slovakia People’s Party (Lidová strana Naše Slovensko – LSNS) in front of the castle in Bratislava. Ten people were arrested, including Marián Kotleba, leader of the Slovak Brotherhood. Authorities allowed the event to take place, but participants then decided they wanted to march to the statue of Prince Svatopluk on the castle grounds, which police did not allow. Police arrested about 10 participants during the subsequent clash; local media reported that one detainee’s head was bloodied.
"We want to express our patriotism by marching,” organizers said prior to the start of the march. Dozens of participants then held up Slovak national symbols and shouted abuse about homosexuals, liberals, and “Zionists”. The extremists chanted slogans on the way to the castle such as “Slovakia for the Slovaks” or "Go to hell, SAS [party], Israel!”
Fully armed police officers were waiting for the marchers in front of the castle gate and refused to let them into the castle courtyard. Kotleba and Mišún, who had convened the gathering, gave their speeches on the spot, primarily verbal attacks on the Freedom and Solidarity Party (Strana Sloboda a Solidarita – SAS), whose leader, Richard Sulík, is now the chair of parliament and is considering removing a statue of Prince Svatopluk from the castle courtyard. "All these liberals, these coveys of Zionists, aren’t bothered by Svatopluk – what bothers them is the double cross, which is an ancient Christian symbol and a symbol of the Slovak nation,” Kotleba declared.
Andrej Petrek, mayor of the Old Town quarter of Bratislava, announced to the marchers more than once that their gathering was not permitted at the castle and dispersed it at 14:00. Shortly thereafter, riot police began expelling the extremists from the castle gates. The marchers then chanted their favorite slogan, “Police state!”
Officers had to intervene more than once at the castle gate. Kotleba’s followers first refused to leave the area where they were not permitted to gather, and several of them sat down in solidarity with him. Others moved to the staircase that leads to the National Assembly of the Slovak Republic. Officers also intervened there.
Civic activist Alojz Hlína was also on the scene and as usual stole the extremists’ flag. Police arrested him as well. Approximately a half an hour after the intervention began, police finally expelled the rest of the marchers into Zámecká street.
A counter-demonstration of anti-fascists and civic activists also headed for the statue of Svatopluk in order to express their disagreement with the Slovak Brotherhood and discuss the controversial statue. Approximately 50 people gathered in front of the National Assembly of the Slovak Republic. Robert Mihály, a civic activist from the UM! (“REASON!”) initiative read greetings to the crowd from representatives of the human rights organizations Amnesty International, People against Racism, and others. Even though 150 MPs had also been invited to attend, the only one to do so was Ondrej Dostál (Most-HID).
In the end, organizers cancelled the planned discussion about the statue, because neither sculptor Ján Kulich nor former Slovak PM Robert Fico had shown up. "If we were to start talking about the statue it would be a one-sided discussion and I can’t identify with such an approach,” the SITA press agency quoted Mihály as saying. Those protesting at the parliament building, unlike the extreme right-wing groups, had requested and were granted permission to march to the statue.
Controversy over the statue broke out recently when news server Aktuálně.sk reported that Svatopluk’s shield bears a cross with two bars of equal length inside a circle, identical to the fascist symbol used by the Hlinka Guard. "They started using that symbol in 1938. It intentionally copied the model of the swastika in a circle, the emblem of the NSDAP, just like the emblem of the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross Party a cross tipped with arrows enclosed in a diamond shape,” said Ladislav Vrtěl, the secretary of the Slovak Interior Ministry’s Heraldic Commission. “There is no question that the double cross with two bars of equal length fulfilled the function of the Nazi swastika in Slovakia,” Aktuálně.sk reports the expert as saying.
The extremists first began associating in the Slovak Brotherhood movement, which the government is in the process of attempting to ban. This past spring, nationalists led by Marián Kotleba succeeded in infiltrating and then taking over the “Friends of Wine Party” and renaming it the “Our Slovakia People’s Party”.
The party fielded candidates in the June parliamentary elections but did not exceed the 5 % limit required to gain seats. The extremists, whose representatives wear uniforms reminiscent of the Hlinka Guard, are demanding the establishment of a corporatist state.