Czechs Celebrate Independence Day by Protesting Rusia’s War on Ukraine

The greatest surprise came when we got to the castle. When we got to our destination there was a man wearing a large paper-mâché mask reassembling Russian president’s Vladimir Putin’s face. He was holding a puppet with Zeman’s face on it. The group stopped by the puppet while the group leader, wearing a Putler shirt, explained through a microphone that the group was pro-democratic and against Putin’s influence in the Czech Republic. The speaker was Czech like most of the organizers and attendees.

October 28th is the Czechoslovak Independence Day. In 1918 it was the day that Czechoslovakia was created and it continues to be celebrated in the Czech Republic and Slovakia today. All students and most adults have the day off, some have the entire week. While most Czechs celebrate the day outside of the city, with their families or relaxing at home, today a handful of Czechs attended a protest in support of Ukraine.

Every weekend such events are held at the famous Old Town Square by the group Prague Maidan. There are concerts, speeches and people gathering signatures for pro-Ukraine petitions. This holiday had a special agenda. A lot of Czechs, especially those living in Prague, don’t support the president and his policies. President Milos Zeman is often called a communist by those who oppose him.

The fliers advertising the march from Old Town Square to the Prague Castle had slogans such as:
– Demanding a pro-democratic president, and
– We don’t want Putin’s puppet living in the castle.

There between 30 and 40 people in total – a mixture of Czechs, Ukrainians and even one or two Americans. Right away we were told that there will be people protesting against us and that we are not to interfere verbally or physically. Before we even left the square, a Russian-speaking woman dressed in yellow pants and a blue jacket started arguing with one of the protesters wearing Ukrainian ‘nationalist’ colors, black and red. She was arguing that we shouldn’t be protesting against anything but rather for something. The protester said a few words back but the march proceeded as planned.

The group had Czech flags, Ukrainian flags and several anti-Zeman and anti-Putin signs in Czech. People on the street called out at us: some yelling insults and others voicing their support. At least ten police officers walked with us and interfered when people approached the group in an aggressive manner. There were also two police cars and one police van that helped us cross roads safely and escorted us the entire way. There was one particular park on the path up to the castle where a group of pro-Russians was gathered with signs and a Russian flag. The signs were illegible from where we walked. The group was slightly smaller than ours and yelled out unintelligible words.

The greatest surprise came when we got to the castle. When we got to our destination there was a man wearing a large paper-mâché mask reassembling Russian president’s Vladimir Putin’s face. He was holding a puppet with Zeman’s face on it. The group stopped by the puppet while the group leader, wearing a Putler shirt, explained through a microphone that the group was pro-democratic and against Putin’s influence in the Czech Republic. The speaker was Czech like most of the organizers and attendees.

After the organizers’ speech, a Czech man yelled from the castle saying “shame!” Everyone responded by laughing saying, “yes, shame on Zeman!” Before marching back to Old Town Square, a Russian man stepped forward. He pulled out his passport to prove that he was truly a Russian citizen, before delivering an anti-Zeman speech. He referred to him as a ‘man who gets drunk with Russian buddies’ and expressed his discontent with both Zeman and Putin.

Everyone in the group was very friendly and despite the several anti-Ukrainians around us, the atmosphere remained friendly and peaceful. I didn’t follow the group back to the square for the concert that was to follow, but I was grateful to have experienced the march. I look forward to reporting on any other events that Prague Maidan organizes.

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Officially published here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/czechs-celebrate-independence-day_b_6064436.html

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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Are We Actually Free?

Kent State University students thought they knew the answer to this question when they gathered on campus grounds to protest America expanding the Vietnam War to Cambodia on May 4, 1970. It was the promise and illusion of freedom that led them to fearlessly stand up to the National Guard and make demands to talk to the governor and to the president. But just like on the Internet, not everything that you read on paper is 100 percent true, even when it’s written in the Constitution.

The students used their right to free speech and peaceful assembly as stated in the First Amendment as a shield against the government forces but this was not enough to protect them from tear gas and violence. The government wasn’t happy that these students, who were privileged enough to go to school on this beautiful government-funded campus, had the nerve to question and go against their political decisions.

Even though the protestors were facing violence and were treated unfairly and had their basic rights breached, they still believed that certain rights would hold up. On Monday May 4th in 1970 some students went out to gather by the bell despite the threat of tanks on their campus and being surrounded by the National Guard. They were asked to leave for their own safety, but they didn’t move until they were attacked with tear gas.

Although the tear gas made them retreat they were not done protesting and they made this very clear. They threw tear gas canisters as well as rocks back at the armed men that were advancing towards them. The National Guard split up to chase all the students away from the grounds they had previously occupied and towards the parking lot. Once there, several of them got down and aimed their guns at those protesters who were the bravest and most vocal.

The students were taken back by such a display, but they continued protesting, believing that this was just a scare tactic and that the guns were not even loaded. The National Guard ended up gathering and leaving and the students believed that they had won. They didn’t get a chance to celebrate for long, because out of no where a group of the guard looked back at the students, turned themselves around without provocation, and began to fire.

The students had no idea that he guns were loaded, and those who were too far to see and only heard had believed the sound to be of fireworks. But the sound was of death. Out of over seventy shots fired, thirteen hit victims – killing four, paralyzing one and injuring eight. None of them could have predicted that this would happen. They had false security from the words they read in their constitution and that they recited in their national anthem.

Forty years of so-called development later we see this sort of phenomenon repeat itself regularly worldwide. We hear the word democracy and we instantly feel safe without looking deeper into our situation. But we need to think and question to be able to decipher the truth. We need to be assertive individuals instead of a herd of sheep and only then will we have the ability to transform the system and create the ideal government. Freedom is more than just a state. It is ever changing and having freedom is an ongoing process that we must constantly work on in order to keep. The four students died in attempt to regain their freedom for which we must commemorate them, and use them as inspiration to keep fighting so that we never lose ours.