November 17th is the anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution and is a public holiday here in the Czech Republic. Hundreds are expected to take to the streets of Prague on Saturday, to mark the 18th anniversary of the beginning of one of the most important chapters in the country’s history. But others will be turning out in numbers for rather different reasons. Here is a round up of the activities we can expect around the capital on Saturday:
In a landmark verdict, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Czech Republic violated the rights of Roma children by placing them in so-called special schools for children with learning difficulties. The state has been ordered to pay the 18 families who took the case 4,000 euros each in compensation. Meanwhile, Roma rights campaigners are calling on the Czech Republic to adopt positive measures to address the segregation that still exists, despite changes to the law.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that the Czech Republic discriminated against 18 Romany children by forcing them to attend special schools. The state will have to pay each of them 108, 000 crowns (4,000 euros) in compensation. The verdict overturns an earlier ruling according to which the Roma families had no cause for complaint since these special schools were also attended by non-Roma children with learning difficulties. The Roma families who waged a 9-year long court battle over their children’s rights said they had almost given up hope of a verdict in their favour. The ruling is likely to set an important precedent.
The failure of neo-Nazis to march through Prague’s Jewish quarter – and the subsequent skirmishes between skinheads and anarchist demonstrators – have certainly dominated the headlines in recent days. Images of battered and bloodied skinheads being taken away by police were flashed around the world’s media, who described Saturday as a fiasco for the far right. But could next weekend turn into a second instalment?
Six people have been charged following a clash between skinheads and anarchists in Prague city centre on Saturday evening. The clash happened at an illegal demonstration staged by right-wing extremists near Prague’s Jewish Quarter on the anniversary of Kristallnacht – a Nazi pogrom carried out in 1938. On Monday, Czech police revealed that five anarchists and one skinhead would face charges following Saturday’s unrest. According to police, amongst those charged is Petr Kalinovsky, a neo-Nazi who fired an air-pistol into the crowd. The anarchists in question have been charged with assaulting police-officers. One policeman was seriously injured at Saturday’s demonstration, and two further policemen suffered minor injuries. Almost 400 people were detained during Saturday’s unrest.
A march through Prague’s Jewish Quarter planned by neo-Nazi groups – which had been banned, then permitted and then banned again by the authorities – did not happen in the end. Around three thousand people gathered at several places in the former Jewish Town on Saturday to block the march, and the police foiled any attempts of the far-right groups to come near the area. The event ended in isolated clashes between far-right and far-left radicals.
Today in Mailbox: the Czech team's qualification for Euro 2008, author Milan Kundera, plans by a neo-Nazi group to march through Prague's historic Jewish Quarter, response to an interview with Czech-Japanese businessman Tomio Okamura, and the proposed US radar base to be built in the Czech Republic. Listeners quoted: Ted Schuerzinger, Tom Lane, Jana Zimmer, Hanka Stibingerova, Lynda-Marie Hauptman.
1,400 police came out in force in Prague’s historic Jewish quarter as
well as other parts of Prague on Saturday, a day when right-wing radicals
said they would go ahead with a march officially banned by the city.
November 10th marks the anniversary of the Nazi pogrom Kristallnacht,
targeted Jews in Germany in 1938. Prague City Hall made clear from the
start it would break up any unauthorised demonstration. In the end,
neo-Nazi extremists did not gather in the numbers expected; nor did any
tried to break through where police were stationed.
In a televised press conference early Saturday evening, Prague Mayor Pavel
Bem said that the police had done an exemplary job in preventing the march
from going ahead. He also stressed that incidents of violence in areas of
Prague throughout the day had been isolated, and that if it stopped at
he would “be happy”.
According to the mayor, around 1,000 anarchists descended on Prague on Saturday, along with between 300-400 right-wing extremists.
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