An anti-government protest held in Prague’s Wenceslas Square on the anniversary of the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia on Friday called for the resignation of the cabinet of Prime Minister Petr Fiala and an early election to facilitate talks with Russia over waning gas supplies.
According to the police, tens of thousands of people gathered at the event called “Non-violent Revolution — Czech Republic First.” The demonstration lasted over three hours.
Several presidential candidates spoke at the event, namely Josef Skála and Hynek Blaško. Former Prime Minister Jiří Paroubek, KSČM chairwoman Kateřina Konečná, and ex-MP Lubomír Volný also spoke, as did actor Ivan Vyskočil, according to Czech news outlet Novinky.
“Russia’s not our enemy, the government of warmongers is the enemy,” one speaker at the event said.
“I will tell you a truly heretical idea. Such a disaster was not here even after 1968, when the troops of the Warsaw Pact came to us, because then the power plants were still ours, the water was ours, the breweries were ours, the Škoda truck was ours,” Paroubek said.
Around 70,000 people found their way to a similar rally in early September. The turnout for the demonstration on Oct. 28 was significantly lower. While Jiří Havel and Ladislav Vrabel organized the previous protests, only Vrabel stood behind the Friday protest.
“We will take over this country. This is a new national revival,” Vrabel said. According to him, the Czech Republic “should return to Czech hands.”
According to the police, tens of thousands of people were in the square to protest against the government’s support of Brussels’ sanctions against Russia. They claimed that Russia was not an enemy.
Paroubek said in his speech that the police figure is an underestimate.
“But I fear, that we are only at the beginning of a great crisis. We all legitimately fear that there will be no gas,” said the ex-prime minister.
“I am afraid that thanks to the gambling energy policy of the Fiala government and Brussels, hundreds of Czech companies will go bankrupt, and sooner or later, hundreds of thousands of people will appear on the pavement,” he added, calling the government anti-Czech, rebellious, and arrogant.
The speakers said that on Nov. 17, they plan to go to the building of Czech Television so millions of people can hear them. The organizer, Ladislav Vrabel, appealed for this action at the end of the event. By the end, chants of “Láďo, děkujem (Ladislav, thank you)” were heard throughout Wenceslas Square, before the Czech national anthem was sung.
According to the organizer, the government that emerged from the elections should resign, hold new elections and hand over the administration of the country to “pro-national experts.”
According to Prime Minister Fiala, the organizers protesting his government are extremists and pro-Russian.
“Everyone has the right to demonstrate, to express their opinion in this way. We hear these opinions, and we don’t take them lightly. On the other hand, it is also necessary for everyone to think about who is calling the demonstration and for what purpose,” said Fiala, who participated in a memorial service at Vítkov Hill on Friday about the planned protest.
Several dozen opponents of this event gathered in the upper part of the square.