Prague, Nov 22 (CTK) – University students and other people met at Prague-Albertov to mark the November 17, 1939 and 1989 anniversaries yesterday, since on Tuesday the police denied them entry to the memorial site where President Milos Zeman was addressing a crowd of his fans.
The organisers of yesterday´s “belated” celebration say a total of 5,000 people attended it. The police estimated the attendance at 2,000.
Prague-Albertov is a university neighbourhood linked to the events of November 17, 1939, the day of a Nazi crackdown on Czech universities, and November 17, 1989, when the “Velvet Revolution” broke out after a violent suppression of a student rally by the communist police in Prague.
On Tuesday, Zeman addressed his fans in Albertov in the presence of people such as Martin Konvicka, leader of the controversial Bloc Against Islam group. This has been criticised by commentators and politicians, including PM Bohuslav Sobotka, who labelled Konvicka´s group a sect that is xenophobic and spreads hatred.
“By our belated celebration of the International Students Day we want to remember the values and the memory of November 17 [events]. It is not a pretext for our commenting on current political affairs or state officials´ stands,” the organisers said.
At the celebration, students fixed up banners on the surrounding university buildings, with inscriptions such as “Albertov is a symbol of freedom” and Education against fear.”
Some waved the flags of the Czech Republic, the EU and Ukraine. Many wore badges shaped as red boxer shorts in an allusion to the giant boxer shorts with which members of the Ztohoven artistic group replaced the presidential flag at Prague Castle in mid-September.
A few participants carried banners with anti-Zeman slogans.
However, Zeman´s name was not pronounced by any of the speakers at all.
The meeting was also attended by many university rectors including those of the Brno and South Bohemian universities, Mikulas Bek and Libor Grubhoffer, with whom Zeman had repeated disputes in the past.
The particpants included conservative opposition TOP 09 deputy chairmen Miroslav Kalousek and Marek Zenisek, MEPs Jiri Pospisil and Jaromir Stetina (both for TOP 09), economist Tomas Sedlacek and well-known art collector and supporter Meda Mladkova.
Addressing the crowd, university student David Hurny said no one must misuse the November 17 anniversary for their own political and ideological interests. He spoke against populism and against labelling opponents with different opinions.
Bek said the Czechs are a plebeian nation because they lost their elites, both aristocratic and burgher, in the past.
The task of universities is to teach the path towards a free plebeian nature, based on work and education, which is proud, self-confident and ready to help the weak, so that it prevails over the lackey-like plebeianism, which is submissive to the superiors, tends to offend the weak and feels no respect for rules, Bek said.
Bohuslav Gas, dean of the Charles University´s Faculty of Science, said “November 17 belongs to students, Albertov belongs to students.”
Gas said he does not reproach the president´s bodyguards for having prevented the students´ access to the commemorative plaque in Albertov on Tuesday, November 17. The chief bodyguard only fulfilled his task. The problem, however, rests in that the Tuesday meeting at Albertov was addressed by people (including Zeman) who did not pronounce the word “student” at all, Gas said.
Zeman´s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said there is no reason for him to comment on the meeting yesterday. “Why, it is an apolitical event that does not concern the president, as the organisers have emphasised,” Ovcacek said.
Czech Technical University (CVUT) Rector Petr Konvalinka told CTK that he is afraid that the Czech Republic may slowly turn into a police state, due either to fascizoid groups or the fears of terrorism.
Later yesterday, the Albertov meeting of students was followed by a remembrance meeting at the Wenceslas Square, organised by the Goodwill Meeting Platform with the aim to remember the “Velvet Revolution” and protest against Zeman´s appearance at the Tuesday ceremony side by side with Konvicka.
Several hundreds of participants, mainly those who arrived from the above Albertov event, chanting anti-Zeman slogans, called on Zeman to resign as president.
They said Zeman had misused the November 17 celebrations and behaved as an enemy of democracy when he appeared side by side with Konvicka.