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Last Sunday, football and ice hockey ultras clashed with the police in Prague’s Old Town Square, where a protest against government imposed restrictions turned violent. 14 people now face criminal charges. The protest was condemned by the Minister of the Interior and Health Minister Roman Prymula, one of the main targets of the protest. Photo: Policie Praha via Twitter.

Czech Rep. Oct. 22 (BD) – In the aftermath of clashes between police and protestors last Sunday in Prague’s Old Town Square, 14 of the 144 people arrested during the turmoil are now facing criminal charges for rioting and attacking policemen, as announced by Eva Kropáčová, spokeswoman for Prague Police. She also reported that 12 police officers had been injured. 

The protest was organized by the Movement of Civil Disobedience, who secured a permit for a gathering of 500 people, on condition of respecting the mandatory use of face masks and social distancing guidelines. The crowd reached around 2,000 people, and there were few signs of health recommendations being respected. 

Photo: Policie Praha via Twitter.

Although the protest was officially organized by the Movement of Civil Disobedience, organisation of the demonstrations dates back to last week, and it was initially promoted by supporters of Baník Ostrava football club. This captured the attention of hundreds of so-called “ultras” across the country, who joined them in Prague. According to the police, the quick escalation to violence, with fireworks, bottles and paving stones thrown, could mostly be attributed to this group, who traded their team colours for all-black attire. Police responded to their inflammatory behaviour with tear gas, flash grenades, and water cannons.

Many of those demonstrating claimed to be against the recent restrictions on football games and pubs, holding signs reading: “Freedom or Death” and “Prymula, Minister of Death”. Among the crowd were those carrying banners calling for the reopening of schools, while the chant “Bohemia for the Czechs” (“Čechy Čechům”) marked the presence of far-right extremists – one of their songs wished for Health Minister Roman Prymula to be sent “to the gas chambers”. Prymula and Prime Minister Andrej Babiš were the main targets of the event, with many demanding their resignation. 

The degree of violence did not surprise the police, who had already carried out 50 arrests across the city before the demonstration started. However, Interior Minister Jan Hamáček expressed shock, accusing those involved of “barbarism of the highest order”. The minister said hehad expected trouble but not such brutality”, and promised that those responsible would be “prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” 

In the week where the Czech Republic crossed the threshold of 10,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 per day, health authorities criticised the protest and described it as a possible “super spreader” event. 

As governments struggle to control the second wave of the pandemic, reintroducing restrictions, tensions are rising across Europe. Similar protests took place on Saturday in Bratislava, where far-right protesters attacked government offices.

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