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Czechs celebrate Velvet Revolution anniversary

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Prague, Nov 17 (CTK) – Czechs remembered the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that led to the fall of the country’s communist regime in 1989 and politicians laid flowers or lit candles at a memorial of the calm student rally that was suppressed by the police in Prague centre 28 years ago.

The Narodni Trida street in the city centre was full of people and various programmes and performances were held there.

ANO leader Andrej Babis, who was the first to lay flowers early morning, faced his critics who remembered his alleged collaboration with the Czechoslovak communist secret police (StB) and his suspected subsidy fraud.

In reaction, Babis said everybody had freedom of speech thanks to the Velvet Revolution.

Babis said people mostly hoped for the freedom to travel abroad and run businesses when the communist regime was falling. Most of their expectations were fulfilled but people did not expect society to become so divided. Czech society is divided between the followers and opponents of President Milos Zeman, the supporters of the ANO movement and the so-called democratic parties that let the state’s assets be stolen by corrupt networks, Babis said.

He said he would do his utmost to improve this situation if he has a chance to form a government.

In reaction to journalists, Babis said the Communists (KSCM) were the only party that presented their demands. “The Pirates gave us their propositions now, the other parties do not talk to us about the programme,” he said.

Babis arrived along with four ANO ministers and Prague Mayor Adriana Krnacova (ANO).

When Tomio Okamura, leader of the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) movement, arrived at the memorial plaque, people from the crowd that was gathered in the street whistled and shouted “Shame!” at him.

On the contrary, people applauded to presidential candidate Jiri Drahos who appreciated the role played by late President Vaclav Havel.

Senate chairman Milan Stech (Social Democrats, CSSD) and leaders of other political parties, including Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09), Ivan Bartos (Pirates) and Petr Gazdik (Mayors and Independents, STAN), arrived at the memorial as well.

After his return from the EU Social Summit in Sweden later on Friday, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) laid flowers to the plaque. He said people need to honour the Constitution, the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly.

The far-right Workers’ Party of Social Justice (DSSS) organised a rally in which about a hundred of people took part. Two of the participants clashed with heavily-armed police officers and were arrested.

Students traditionally organised a carnival moving through the capital city. The parade of masks highlighted fake news, sexual violence, food waste, homeless people and bad protection of postwar architecture.

At a gathering in the Charles University premises in Prague-Albertov, Masaryk University Rector Mikulas Bek warned against a dictate of public referendums and the effort to run the state like a business.

The rich businessman Babis, possible future prime minister, said the state should be run like a business to be more effective. Okamura wants people to decide in a referendum whether the Czech Republic should leave the European Union.

Bek also said the freedom-loving part of society suffered several defeats in the past five years, including the presidential election.

President Milos Zeman has been on bad terms with most Czech rectors after he did not invite some of them who were critical of him to official state events. Out of solidarity, other rectors do not attend these events organised by the Presidential Office either.

Zeman, 73, said beforehand that he would not take part in the celebration of the national holiday on Friday. His health does not seem to be very good. In the past, Zeman was criticised for appearing on the same stage with anti-Islam extremists during the celebrations.

In the evening at Narodni Trida, people lit candles and made a chain to commemorate the victims of the communist regime.

Concerts and celebrations were held in several places in the city centre as well as in other cities and towns in the country on Friday.

Within the Concert for Future in Prague, presidential candidates Jiri Drahos, Pavel Fischer and Marek Hilser made speeches. Presidential candidate Michal Horacek was surprised that he did not get a chance to speak, too.

Many of the other speakers at this concert criticised Babis and Zeman. Former politician and dissident Daniel Kroupa called on people not to vote in support of the interests of “the totalitarian China and the Russian authoritarian society.”

“People against whom we fought are returning after 28 years,” Kroupa said.

Some visitors to the concert considered it part of the campaign before the January direct presidential election.

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