Police in Prague clash with citizens protesting the Czech government's COVID-19 restrictions

Hundreds of police officers intervened in dramatic brawls Sunday afternoon in the Czech capital's Old Town Square

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 18.10.2020 19:44 (updated on 18.10.2020)

Prague, Oct 18 (CTK) -- A Sunday-afternoon demonstration against the Czech government's anti-coronavirus restrictions ended in dramatic clashes between protesters and the police after the rally was officially terminated.

The protest started at 14:00 in the Czech capital's Old Town Square; organisers officially ended the demonstration after 15:00 due to the protest reaching a higher attendance than the permitted limit of 500.

Prague City Hall called on the organisers to end the demonstration. City hall spokesman Vit Hofman said there were roughly 2,000 people at the rally, according to his information, but this number might be higher. Most of them did not wear face masks.

"Police officers intervened at the moment when the participants violated law. The violation of the Czech government regulation was properly documented and will be reported to the respective administrative body," Police President Jan Svejdar tweeted.

Several protesters were football fans who attempted to break through the police cordon near the square. The police used water canon against them and detained some demonstrators.

Some 20 people, including police officers, were injured on the spot. "The injuries were probably quite light, caused by brawls or tear gas," Prague emergency service spokeswoman Jana Postova told.

The police called on all to leave the square where clashes between police officers, who closed the square surroundings, and demonstrators continued, but dozens of people did not obey the call and recorded the event on smart phones.

Armoured and mounted police units along with dog handlers were deployed in the crackdown and water canons and heavy police vehicles were sent to the square.

The most dramatic brawls lasted about one hour.

As the rally was ended, hooligans started firing bangers first and then they were throwing bottles as well as litter bins at the police. The police managed to push them to the square and started detaining the most active participants in the conflict.

Several hundred people still stayed in the square, chanting slogans against Health Minister Roman Prymula, the mastermind of the anti-epidemic restrictions, calling him names, as well as other vulgar slogans, such as "ACAB" (All Cops Are Bastards).

Armoured police then used tear gas, bangers, dog handlers and heavy vehicles to push most protesters from the square.

Already before the demonstration, the police detained almost 50 people after finding dangerous items on them, such as firework rockets, knuckles, telescopic baton and a firearm.

The law on the right of assembly bans participants in gatherings from carrying firearms, explosives, firework rockets and other items that could injure others.

The demonstration was organised by the Movement of Civil Disobedience (HON) civic association. It originally planned a two-hour programme, but terminated the rally after one hour. The attendance was much higher than the permitted 500 and most of the participants did not wear face masks.

Under the current regulation, the demonstrators should be divided into 20-member groups with at least two-metre distance between groups, while the square was actually fully crowded.

The beginning of the demonstration was calm, speakers criticised the government and called for its reshuffle. However, some participants chanted nationalistic slogans. The organisers called on them to observe the anti-epidemic measures, such as distancing and avoid any violence.

On Saturday, several hundred football fans and ultra-right supporters were protesting against the current anti-coronavirus restrictive measures outside the Slovak government's seat in Bratislava and the police intervened against them, using tear gas and water cannon to pacify the radicals who were throwing stones and bottles at the police.