Thousands protest coronavirus lockdown in Prague
Several thousand people protested against coronavirus restrictions in Prague yesterday. Former President Václav Klaus, who refuses compulsory vaccination against covid-19, gave a speech. Many protesters did not wear face coverings, and the participants did not follow social distancing guidelines. The police described the assembly as peaceful and reported the violations of the measures to the administrative body. According to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, participants should go to help hospitals to see the situation there.
The demonstration called Let’s Open the Czechia wants coronavirus restrictions lifted immediately. The crowd chanted that the government should resign.
Participants held Czech flags and banners reading “Stop covid tyranny. Let’s stop totalitarianism in the name of covid!”, “We are not sheep”, “Monday to school!” Some came with small children.
Speakers called for the immediate repeal of all government measures and for the economy to be opened up. “The anti-epidemic chaotic measures of this government do not work and will never work. On the contrary, they are detrimental to this republic, to us, to you, to the whole nation,” Jiří Janeček declared as an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry. “Let’s open the whole of the Czech Republic completely by 23 January, let’s live our own lives and protect those who need it and especially want it. Let’s wake up in the normal world within 14 days!” he added.
Klaus said that “one-way dictation from the government must stop”. “We want to tell the government and say it clearly and unequivocally: that has been enough. There have been enough of all the prohibitions and orders that are fundamentally damaging our lives,” he said. “There is no miracle vaccine. Vaccination must not be mandatory,” he added, speaking to the applause of the crowd that he would not be vaccinated himself.
At the beginning of the two-hour event, the police estimated the number of participants at 2,000, and after its completion, they adjusted their estimate to 2,500 to 3,000 people. “During the assembly, we did not address any significant violations of public order,” Prague police said.
The police will report the organizer of the event to the administrative body for violating government regulations due to exceeding the permitted number of participants. He was detained on the spot for an offense, according to the spokesperson. The police then detained two protestors who fought at the Estates Theater after the demonstration. The other four were detained for misdemeanor proceedings, the police said on Twitter after the meeting. Two hundred police officers supervised the protest from the riot and traffic police and the anti-conflict team members. Police officers were also on site.
At the beginning and end of the event, the singer Daniel Landa appeared on stage and first called for a non-violent protest. “We are a force, but we are not violence. We are a peaceful assembly. It is very important,” he said. “On the 22nd (January), the state of emergency ends, and then I can only imagine civil disobedience,” he said at the end of the event before singing the anthem.
The organizer of the demonstration and the chairman of the Svobodní political party Libor Vondráček said that the demonstration has two main goals. In the long run, it is the “opening of the Czech Republic”, in the short term, for the government to start communicating with the people affected by the current measures and to have a real dialogue with them.
Prime Minister Babiš condemned the demonstration. According to him, the protesters do not perceive what is happening in hospitals.
Babiš criticized the mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) for not shutting down the event. According to the law, however, the municipality has this power as a state administration, not the city management, as representatives of municipal self-government.