On Sunday, people, including former Czech President Václav Klaus, met at Prague’s Old Town Square to protest against coronavirus measures introduced by the government. Police estimated that there were about 2,500 to 3,000 people. Many of them did not wear face masks, nor did they comply with the physical distancing rules. However, police stated that the rally was peaceful. The demonstration called Open Czechia was convened by the initiative that strives for the opening of restaurants.
The crowd chanted that the government should resign. Participants of the protest held Czech flags and banners with slogans “Stop the COVID tyranny. Let’s stop totalitarianism in the name of COVID!”, “We are not sheep”, “Back to school on Monday!” and “Stop the Coronaterror”. Some protesters also came with small children. Those who gave a speech in front of the protesters called for the immediate cancellation of all government measures and the reopening of the economy.
“The chaotic coronavirus measures issued by the government do not work and will never work. On the contrary, they harm this country, us, you, the whole nation,” said entrepreneur Jiří Janeček, a former politician and MP for Civic Democrats (ODS). “Let’s open the whole of the Czech Republic completely by January 23, let’s live our own lives and protect those who need it and want it. Let’s wake up in the normal world within 14 days!” he added.
Former President Václav Klaus, who came to support the protesters, said that “the one-way government orders must stop”. “We want to let the government know, clearly and unequivocally: it has been enough. There have been enough of all the bans and orders that are fundamentally damaging our lives,” said Klaus. “There is no miracle vaccine. Vaccination must not be mandatory,” the former president continued, adding that he would not get vaccinated himself, which earned him the applause of the crowd. AP Photo/Petr David Josek Former Czech Republic’s President Václav Klaus addresses the crowd during the demonstration
At the beginning of the demonstration, singer and loud opponent of the coronavirus measures Daniel Landa talked on the stage, calling on those present to protest in a non-violent way. “We are a force, but we are not violent. We are a peaceful assembly. That is very important,” he said. One of the organizers of the demonstration and the chairman of the Freedomites Party (Svobodní), Libor Vondráček, said that there are two goals of the rally. In the long run, it is the “opening of the Czech Republic”, in the short term, it is for the government to start communicating with the people affected by the current measures and have a real dialogue with them.
Organizers of the protest stated that the government does not improve the current situation but makes it worse and that can protect themselves more effectively. They do not want to continue to abide by the measures which, according to them, not only do not work but also caused a “pandemic of poverty, unemployment, and failing companies.” At the beginning of the two-hour event, the police estimated the number of protesters at approximately 2,000. After the rally ended, they adjusted their estimate to 2,500 to 3,000 people, however, the police did not register any significant breaches of public order during the event.
The main organizer of the event will be investigated by authorities due to the higher-than-allowed number of participants of the protest. The demonstration was supervised by 200 police officers from the riot and traffic police and members of the anti-conflict team. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš condemned the demonstration. According to him, protesters cannot see what is happening in hospitals. “In my opinion, all those people should go to hospitals and help there as volunteers,” he told the Czech TV. Title image: A man flashes victory signs during a protest joined by thousands against the government restrictive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections, in Prague, Czech Republic, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)