Citywide protests in Prague mark day devoted to Czech freedom and democracy

Marches for democracy, support for Ukraine, and the climate crisis took place on the same day as right-wing demonstrators gathered at Czech Television. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 18.11.2022 10:30:00 (updated on 18.11.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

Several demonstrations took place across Prague yesterday, a national holiday marking the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy. A large march showed support for Ukraine and democratic processes, while a smaller group of students urged the Czech government to do more to stop climate change.

An anti-government protest saw demonstrators march to the headquarters of public broadcaster Czech Television.

The holiday, which commemorates not only the 1989 protests against the communist regime but also the 1939 student demonstrations against the Nazi occupation, usually draws protests and demonstrations across the political divide. All of the events were peaceful, with no incidents reported by police.

Support for Ukraine and democracy

A silent march for democracy, also expressing support for Ukraine, attracted between 5,000 and 10,000 people, according to organizers. The rally was held with the support of the association Million Moments.

The march set out from Na Slupi Street, near where student protests began in 1989 and reached the Jungmannovo náměstí just after 4 p.m. Most of the marchers then continued to Wenceslas Square to watch the Concert for Future, headlined by the Russian dissident band Pussy Riot.

People carried Czech, Ukrainian, and EU flags. Banners included the slogan "It is not enough to remember" or a crossed-out communist hammer and sickle with the inscription "Nevermore."

The organizers said it was time to start uniting the divided Czech society and to return the Czech national symbols to the hands of all citizens.

"We condemn, like all others, the murdering of innocent people in Ukraine, we are against the war. This is why we support the material and military help to the attacked Ukraine. We believe that if there is a failure of diplomatic talks, there is no other way towards peace," the organizers wrote in their invitation to the march.

During the day in Prague, the Million Moments prepared an installation inspired by the upcoming presidential election. A balloon lifted a large question mark from a boat on the Vltava that made it hard to miss when looking at Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech president.

In a press release, the association said it wanted to draw attention to the fact that values such as solidarity, humanity, and kindness should resonate in the public space, especially in challenging times. “These qualities need to be sought in the new head of state. The current one is clearly missing," the press release said.

Students call for solutions to the climate crisis

Several hundred people attended a protest march that was the culmination of a university student strike to draw attention to the climate crisis. The protesting students walked through Národní Street remembering the legacy of the students who helped topple the communist regime in 1989.

Some marchers met Prime Minister Petr Fiala yesterday morning, but they were dissatisfied with his answers to their demands for solutions and action. The prime minister did not directly respond to their demand to ensure the 50 percent proportion of renewable sources in electricity generation by 2030.

Fiala dismissed the criticism that the government was doing little to protect the climate. "The government is not indifferent to this matter [and is] taking steps, advancing forward," he said.

The students have called on the government to make solving the climate crisis a priority and start rapidly curbing greenhouse gas emissions. They also called on the government to ban coal-fired power plants as of 2033.

The organizers want the government to create a special ministry or government commissioner to focus on the fight against climate change and its impact.

“We want to show that it is not enough to remember. The rallies in November 1989 started with protests for the environment in Teplice, North Bohemia. We want to revive and update this legacy. We, too, are living in an unfair system that plunders natural resources,” Remi Dzian, from the Universities for Climate, said, according to ČTK.

Right-wing group criticizes Czech Television

Thousands of demonstrators protested against the government in their march through Prague to the headquarters of public broadcaster Czech Television (ČT).

The protest march complicated transport in some places in Prague.

The demonstrators gathered near Prague’s main railway station Hlavní nádraží. From there, they moved to the main thoroughfare across the Nusle Bridge and on to the ČT headquarters at Kavčí hory.

The group’s speakers criticized the ČT newscast, saying it was not impartial as during the Covid pandemic, that it over-emphasized vaccination, and provided little space to Russian views concerning the war in Ukraine.

The activists also criticized the Czech government’s support for Ukraine and objected to the Czech Republic's membership in the EU and NATO.

ČT tweeted that the demonstrators demanded that it broadcast a 10-minute speech by their representative on the ČT1 and ČT24 news programs.

"This is not how it works. The ČT program is determined by rules, a code, and routine steps. Not by any pressure. ČT cannot and will not broadcast any speeches that are just wished," ČT tweeted before the protest.

The marchers carried Czech flags and banners saying "ČT belongs to all" and "Freedom ends where the ČT signal starts." Some protesters carried the flags of the right-wing Tricolor movement.

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