A Season of Discontent? Reflections of Another Demonstration
Prague, Czech Republic — On 28 October, while the entire country was celebrating the creation of a Czechoslovak state almost a century ago, thousands of people took to the streets nationwide to protest against EU migration policies and the influx of migrants from Muslim countries.
This major demonstration was organised by the anti-immigration party Úsvit and the people’s movement IVČRN (Islám v České republice nechceme), which also contributed to the last protest on this topic on 17 October. This time, however, the action was not limited to Prague, and it took in three other Czech cities, Brno, Ostrava and Ústí nad Labem as well. Protesters at three sites were connected by a live feed on a screen by the main stage. Only the Brno demonstration failed to take part because of technical problems.
The protest began with a speech by Úsvit Member of Parliament Martin Černoch. Speakers in the different cities then took turns addressing demonstrators in a programme featuring activists from elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe. The Ostrava line-up included members of the Polish anti-Islam opposition party, while in Prague, German representatives of the PEGIDA popular movement had three opportunities to incite the crowd. The latter was filled with local residents, bike gang members (who are a mainstay at anti-Islam protests) and supporters who had travelled from Dresden.
The demonstration at Prague’s Náměstí Míru was met by an opposition rally by activists for refugee rights. This gathering was small in comparison, however, and it failed to draw much attention away from the anti-Islam protest. The sole exception came when the two groups edged dangerously close to one another, and more police were called in to separate them. At that moment, the scene resembled a small battlefield as small clashes broke out.
The Prague demonstration ended around 3:30 p.m. when the Czech anthem was played and the crowd dispersed into smaller groups. Some protesters moved to the Malostranská metro area where they joined another small demonstration on a similar theme. Other groups were seen in the city centre though none had the force or numbers of the Náměstí Míru event. Despite the cold weather, some continued their protest all day, and IVČRN flags were spotted in Prague as late as 6:00 p.m.