In a speech at an event organised in his support by Bloc Against Islam, the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, said opponents of migration should not be dubbed “extremists, xenophobes, Islamophobes, racists or fascists”. Speaking on the anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and the execution and mass arrest of Czech students in 1939, Mr. Zeman told a crowd of supporters at Prague’s Albertov that nobody would dictate to the Czech people what to do. He said he was the president of the nation but not the president of the media, who he accused of “massaging” the migration crisis.
Fear of terrorists must not be turned against refugees, says the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka. Speaking at a memorial event honouring Czech students victims of the Nazis at Prague’s Hlávka Dorms on Tuesday, Mr. Sobotka said populists and hate-mongers were feeding off people’s concerns as a wave of migration comes to Europe. He said it was not possible to make little of the fears of Czech citizens, which needed to be answered with practical solutions to the current crisis, including the EU becoming more decisive and ensuring that the external borders of the bloc function once again.
Wreaths have been laid at Prague’s Národní třída on Tuesday at the site of the start of the Velvet Revolution. Among those who marked the anniversary at the historical spot was the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, who said not all of people’s expectations in 1989 had been met. His view was echoed by the minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, who also told reporters that the state holiday should not be used to divide society; some politicians are taking advantage of the day to create a profile or campaign, he said. Alongside political leaders thousands of regular citizens paid their respects on Národní třída, with many lighting candles to mark the anniversary.
The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, hosted volunteers who have worked with refugees at the Serbian or Croatian borders or directly in refugee camps at the government's Kramář Villa on Tuesday. Jan Piňos of the group Czech Team, who operated on the Serbian-Croatian border, said the PM had shown courage in inviting he and his co-volunteers given the anti-refugee sentiment in the Czech Republic and on a day when the president was appearing with anti-Islam campaigners elsewhere in Prague.
A demonstration expressing support for refugees was held on Prague’s Náměstí Míru on Tuesday. The event entitled This Country Belongs to All - Refugees Welcome was organised by the anti-hate speech group Proti projevům nenávisti and drew hundreds of people. Among the speakers was human rights minister Jiří Dienstbier, who said it was important to stand up for the European values Czechs had professed during 1989’s Velvet Revolution. Demonstrators later marched to the Albertov area of the city, where they were separated from an event organised by Bloc Against Islam by hundreds of riot police.
An estimated two to three thousand people took part in a demonstration in front of Prague’s National Museum on Tuesday afternoon entitled For Our Culture and the Security of the Country. Many carried green cards expressing support for President Miloš Zeman, who on November 17 last year was the target of opponents bearing red cards. Among those who spoke at the event, which caused the closing of the main road through Prague, was anti-immigrant politician Tomio Okamura of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party.
Strong winds are expected in the Czech Republic on Tuesday night and on Wednesday with gales of up to 110 kilometres an hour likely in mountain areas, according to a warning issued by the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute. The windstorm should culminate on Wednesday morning before easing off later in the day, forecasters said.