Bars and other venues can declare themselves minority-friendly under new project

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Under a new campaign sponsored by the government’s Agency for Social Inclusion, Czech pubs, cafés and other venues are now able to display stickers declaring that they welcome members of the country’s minority communities. Called Hate Free Zones, they are part of the broader Hate Free Culture project, which began late last year. I asked organiser Lukáš Houdek what Hate Free Culture is hoping to achieve.

Lukáš Houdek, photo: Ian Willoughby
“It’s a kind of initiative or campaign that is focusing on young people between the age of 15 and 25, to show them other ways that people can look at… problems with minorities and life with minorities.

“Because we’ve discovered that young people very often don’t have arguments. They don’t have relevant information. So that’s why we started this project last year.”

How has the project gone so far?

“It has more and more fans on Facebook, because as we work with young people most often. At this moment we have about 12,000 followers.

“People are quite active. They want to organise culture events in their hometowns. That was actually our plan – to make people active.

“We also give a hand to other minorities that want to do something. For example on Sunday we published pictures of Czech Muslims standing against terrorism, showing Czech people that they are not terrorists and that they are against violence.”

As part of Hate Free Culture you’ve just introduced a new initiative called Hate Free Zones. What are Hate Free Zones?

“The Hate Free Zone is a sticker that is free for any kind of place – cafés, clubs, galleries, it could even be a petrol station or wherever else. We even have one church.

“And by labelling their place as a Hate Free Zone these places are saying that everybody is welcome there. It doesn’t matter if one is gay, Roma, Muslim or from any other group.

“It means they will respect the person and protect them in their place. This is quite a problem in for example some regions in the Czech Republic, where Roma are not allowed to enter some places.”

That’s something I wanted to ask you – are you targeting particular parts of the country?

“Yes. We don’t want it to be Prague-centric, because in Prague there would be the most potential zones, but we are trying to ask local regional cafes, pubs and shops to become Hate Free Zones, so that there will always be some place where these marginalised groups can go.”

Photo: Hate Free Zone
How many places do you think are actually likely to want to display this sticker saying that they’re Hate Free?

“We hope it will be several hundred. We’re printing 1,000 labels, so... [laughs]. We think it will be several hundred.

“We only officially launched yesterday and at this moment we have about 20 or 25 zones.”