Thursday, January 17, 2008

Neo-Nazis will march through Plzeň

A daily in-depth look at current events in the Czech Republic.

[16-01-2008] By Jan Richter

A radical far-right group wants to march through Plzeň on Saturday to protest against alleged restrictions on freedom of speech in the Czech Republic. Two months after thousands of ordinary people took to the streets to block a similar march through Prague’s Jewish Quarter, the organizers of the Plzen march are calling on their supporters to turn up armed this time round.
A radical far-right group with neo-Nazi ties known as Národní odpor, or National Resistance, feels that freedom of speech is being restricted in the Czech Republic. In November, the Prague authorities together with several thousand people prevented them from expressing their disapproval of Czech participation in the occupation of Iraq which they were planning to voice in Prague’s Jewish Quarter on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, a large Nazi anti-Jewish pogrom in 1938. This time, the radicals want to march past the Great Synagogue in Plzeň, on the anniversary of the first transports of local Jews to Nazi extermination camps in 1942. I asked Tomáš Kraus, the secretary of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic if the Plzeň Jewish community was ready for the march.
“The [Jewish] community of Plzeň is prepared for such a provocation. We also hope that other authorities in the city are prepared for the event because this is something new, something they have never had to face before. Of course it needs coordinated action on several levels, starting with the municipality of Plzeň.”
The local Jewish community plans to hold a rally outside the Great Synagogue at the time of the march. According to the community leader Eva Štixová, they will not attempt to block the neo-Nazi march. Neither it seems will the police. Jana Václavová is the spokeswoman for the Plzeň police headquarters.
“Our main task will be to make sure that the event is peaceful, to protect public safety and property. Several hundred police officers will be out in the streets to make sure that public order is maintained. Members of a riot police squad will also participate in the event, communicating with the protesters to prevent any aggressive behaviour on their side and any potential conflicts. We have also asked our colleagues from neighbouring states for cooperation, especially from Bavaria and Saxony.”

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