Around 70,000 people demonstrated against the government of Petr Fiala over the weekend. The prime minister subsequently labeled the organizers of the event as pro-Russian forces and the fifth column, adding on Monday that he stands by his statement. The event was directly organized by Jiří Havel and Ladislav Vrábel, who themselves have not been involved in politics in any significant way, but a number of people who are worth paying attention took part. Here is an overview of those who appeared on stage on Saturday. Other demonstrations are also planned, for example, the trade unions called a protest action on October 8.
Among the speakers at Saturday’s event was the head of the Trikolora movement Zuzana Majerová Zahradníková, in addition to Majerová Zahradníková, another speaker was also associated with Trikolora, the former head of the Agrarian Chamber Zdeněk Jandejsek, who started working with the movement in 2019, became the guarantor of the movement’s program for the Department of Agriculture .
Majerová Zahradníková is a former member of parliament and a current candidate for the Senate. Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, she has repeatedly spoken harshly towards refugees. The Tricolor movement, which he leads, is pushing for a referendum on leaving the European Union. In last year’s parliamentary elections, the movement still ran with Svobodný and Soukromníky. Svobodní have already terminated cooperation with Trikolora, allegedly because Trikolora supports Russian President Vladimir Putin and defends his military campaign in Ukraine. Majerová Zahradníková rejected this claim and stated that she does not support Russia, but rather promotes negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin for peace.
Communist presidential candidate Josef Skála, who had been a member of the Communist Party of the Czech Republic since 1970, and became a member of the Communist Party of the Czech Republic after the revolution, also spoke at the Saturday event. He is considered a conservative communist who makes no secret of the fact that he welcomed Soviet tanks in 1968. In 2018, he stated that the KSČM must be more radical. “We have to be a much more radical systemic opposition. I mean the ability to give a political shape to the disillusionment and critical moods and the will to protest of the majority of Czech society, that is our task, which so far we are coping with only partially and insufficiently,” he said in 2018 (we wrote here).
Former member of parliament Lubomír Volný, who gained attention during the coronavirus pandemic by violating measures in the lower house, deliberately did not wear a face mask and spoke about the fact that covid does not exist and is just a fabrication, also spoke. The police investigated him several times in connection with the spread of the alarm message. On Monday, Volný’s trial was supposed to begin in the case of claims about the drug ivermectin, but that did not happen. Volný asked for the meeting to be postponed because he is ill. The expatriate’s lawyer Eliška Faltýnková Rytířová told journalists on the spot. On Saturday, Volný spoke at Wenceslas Square, where he called for the cooperation of nationalist forces.
Police also investigated Volny’s statements regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which he also shared on social media. Among other things, he admired Russian President Vladimir Putin and called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a mass murderer. The police dismissed the case, saying that the statements were not criminal.
Former football official, lawyer and activist Jindřich Rajchl, the current chairman of the political party Právo Respekt Odbornost – PRO, also spoke on Saturday. Rajchl co-founded Charter 22, which called for the abolition of pandemic emergency and covid certificates. According to him, the current economic war was not started by Russia, but by the European Union. It is also a former member of the Tricolor, who gave a speech during the demonstration in which he claimed that Czech Television does not report on the demonstration at all because it is afraid of the people on Wenceslas Square. He accused Prime Minister Fiala of treason and promised to sue the current government for international corruption. “We are not afraid, we will light the flame and prepare the Czech national uprising,” said Rajchl.
Among politically active people, Petra Rédová Fajmonová, a candidate for the Senate for the PRO group, also took part in the event. Rédová became famous during the coronavirus pandemic, when she spoke from the position of a nurse about the fact that vaccines create mutations of the virus, that the more doses a person has, the sicker he will be. Meanwhile, hospitals distanced themselves from her.
The event was also attended by political scientist Vladimíra Vítová, who repeatedly comments about “insidious refugees who arrive in the Czech Republic with expensive iPhones.” Vítová is the head of the Alliance of National Forces party and, according to experts, has a clear pro-Russian rhetoric. Adam B. Bartoš also ran for her party in the past, who was also convicted for his anti-Jewish texts. Vítová did not distance herself from his texts.
Czech economist and university teacher, dean of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Economics in Prague Miroslav Ševčík also spoke. Ševčík joined the Communist Party in 1984, and his communist past is a recurring theme. Like Jandejsek, he is associated with the Tricolor movement, in 2019 he became a guarantor of the movement’s program for the department of finance. Ševčík was repeatedly caught driving dangerously. In 2014, he drove in the opposite direction on the D5 motorway using a blue beacon. Due to the mass accident, the highway was impassable. After half an hour of waiting, he attached a blue beacon to the car and drove in the opposite direction through the parking lane. In his speech on Wenceslas Square, Ševčík accused Germany, among other things, of wanting to dominate the Czech Republic with the help of the European Union.
The event was organized by Jiří Havel and Ladislav Vrábel. Both describe themselves as politically unaffiliated citizens. There were other people on stage with them, including pro-Russian activist Žarko Jovanović, as security analyst Roman Máca of the Institute for Politics and Security noted. Energy expert Vladimír Štěpán and lawyer Jana Zwyrtek Hamplová also arrived.
Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on Saturday that “the demonstration was called by forces that claim to be pro-Russian.” At the weekend, he added that, according to him, people have the right to express their views and demonstrate. “That’s democracy and that’s how I look at it,” added Fiala for Czech Television. He repeated his statement on Monday (we wrote here).
“I stand by my statement, which did not refer to the protesters, but to the organizers. The demonstration was organized by members of the Russian fifth column. There is enough evidence. Just look at who was on stage and what they were saying,” wrote Fiala. “According to them, the solution to expensive energy is withdrawal from NATO and the EU. They want to make us a vassal of Moscow again. And that needs to be named and confronted. There is a way to manage expensive energy – we are finalizing a national solution, we are also working on a European project,” added the Prime Minister.
According to him, it will be clear during September. “We do not underestimate citizens’ concerns. A long time ago, we also announced a robust support program for all those who will still have problems managing inflation. We have the fourth largest aid in Europe,” Fiala said on Twitter on Monday. “I am convinced that there will be no need to go to the square for similar dubious events. That won’t help anyone with expensive bills,” he added.
The Austrian vice-premier spoke more deliberately on Saturday. “I take seriously the concerns of the people who came to Václavák. Splitting society is one of the objectives of the hybrid war we face. We can’t let him. That is why we are working on solutions that will alleviate people’s fear of the future.
But those solutions do not lie in leaning towards Putin’s Russia, I do not agree with the speakers on that,” he said on Twitter.
The Minister of Industry and Trade, Jozef Síkela, expressed regret over the fear and concerns of the people who came to the demonstration. “I will do everything to communicate even more and explain more without embellishment what our situation is, but also that we have instructions on how to solve the situation,” assures the minister.
The unions are also planning a demonstration
Representatives of the SPD were also supposed to take part in Saturday’s protest, however, shortly before the event, deputy Jiří Kobza said that he was worried about provocations that would try to discredit “patriotic movements and especially the SPD before the municipal, Prague and senate elections.” “I will not participate in the demonstration tomorrow, so as not to give a pretext for any action by the opposing party, which the journalists would subsequently whip up to dizzying heights, ignoring their own dirt,” said Kobza, adding that after the elections (held on September 23 and 24 – editor’s note) the SPD is planning its own action . He did not specify what the event would be.
Trade unionists of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (ČMKOS) are also calling the protest. They are calling a demonstration in Prague on Wenceslas Square on October 8 because of the current situation. They called on the government to take measures against rising prices and falling living standards in the Czech Republic. Union leaders said this today at a trade union rally against poverty. About a thousand trade unionists from all over the country arrived at the Karlín Forum in Prague.
ČMKOS is the largest trade union headquarters in the country. It covers 31 unions with about 270,000 members. The gathering has traditionally been held every September since 2015. In the past two years, it was not held due to the epidemic.
The trade unionists called their October action “Five Minutes to Twelve”. It will start on Saturday, October 8 at 12:05 p.m. On Monday, at their event, which they describe as a “demonstration meeting”, they criticized the government for inaction. They point to a sharp rise in prices and a real drop in income.
“After a long discussion, we agreed to call a demonstration. One of the reasons is the inaction of the government. The government has until that day (October 8) to take action. Unfortunately, we don’t have much reason to believe that he can do it yet. We are dissatisfied, angry, determined to fight for a better Czech Republic. The government has enough time to act,” said ČMKOS leader Josef Středula, who is now collecting signatures for his candidacy for president.
The government objected to the planned union demonstration. The Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Marian Jurečka, stated on his Twitter that either the unions want to act constructively and look for reasonable solutions in these difficult times, or they want to demonstrate. “In a situation where the government is finalizing a concrete solution for aid at the EU and national level, this announcement by the trade unions does not make sense to me, unless the goal is to demonstrate at all costs,” Jurečka said.