Czech Republic: Islamophobes demonstrate in four towns with ultra-nationalist party
Roughly 250 people, according to Czech Police estimates, assembled for a "Saint Wenceslas demonstration" in Prague on 28 September, a state holiday officially called the Day of Czech Statehood. The event protested the alleged "Islamization" of Europe.
Other demonstrations on that theme were convened by the Bloc against Islamization and the Úsvit (Dawn) political movement in the towns of Most, Ostrava and Plzeň that same day. The largest demonstration, estimated at 400, was in Most.
In the other cities approximately 100 people attended these events. Those who spoke at them criticized Czech Government policy or rejected the European Union (EU).
Organizers said the demonstrations were meant to launch a series of Europe-wide assemblies against Islam. The first speaker at the Ostrava demonstration was the chair of Úsvit, Miroslav Lidinský, who expressed his disagreement with Czech Government policy.
Lidinský declared, for example, that the cabinet of Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Social Democratic Party) is "collaborating" with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Other speakers added their own criticism of the Czech Government, saying, for example, that the chairs of the governing parties - Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), Deputy Prime Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Pavel Bělobrádek (Christian Democrats), and Sobotka - have committed "betrayal".
The speeches were also dominated by criticism of EU migration policy and concerns about refugee reception. Tommy Robinson, the head of the Pegida movement in Great Britain, told the Prague demonstration that "We do not support racism or violence".
The only leading Czech politician who was not criticized by the demonstrators was Czech President Miloš Zeman. According to speakers at these assemblies, Zeman is the "only" leader who is "defending Czech interests".
Some Prague demonstrators waved Czech flags and banners showing an image of a crossed-out mosque, while others carried banners calling for the Government to resign or expressing their disagreement with Islam. The assemblies in other parts of the country also featured similar messages.
All four demonstrations were linked to each other through a "telebridge", which allowed them to see each other. They all sang the Czech national anthem together to close the gatherings.
Plainclothes and uniformed police supervised the gatherings. Police anti-conflict teams were also deployed at some of them.
In Most, police detained one person at the event just before it was dispersed. "The event took place without disrupting public order," the Regional Police spokesperson, Alena Bartošová, told the Czech News Agency.
"One person was detained on suspicion of a felony and we will be asking him for his statement," Bartošová said. According to Prague police spokesperson Iveta Martínková, the demonstration in the capital took place without any problems and officers did not have to intervene against anybody.
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