Brno braces itself for Sunday’s neo-Nazi march

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The city of Brno, in the south-east of the country, is bracing itself for Sunday’s extremist march through one of the city’s Romany neighbourhoods. A local court had overturned a ban on the march issued by Brno City Hall. Now, police are getting ready to deploy hundreds of officers to oversee the march, while several local groups are planning to try and block part of its route.

Illustrative photo
Brno rapper MC Bonus put out a special track in support of Brno Blocks, an initiative that will try and block Sunday’s neo-Nazi march through the streets of Brno.

Several hundred neo-Nazis are expected to turn up and march through an area in the city centre that is mostly inhabited by Romanies. The stated goal of the march is to protest against the influx of foreign workers, but the group Brno Blocks does not doubt the real aim is to intimidate members of the country’s largest minority. Jiří Koželouh is a spokesman for the group.

“The aim of the neo-Nazis is very clear. They want to provoke, they want to spread hatred and fear. So we would like to stage a non-violent but very strong anti-Nazi protest with the people of Brno, and block the march in Cejl Street.”

There are some 15,000 Romanies living in the city, many of them in and around Cejl Street, a few blocks away from Brno’s historic centre.

Jiří Koželouh,  photo: Hnutí DUHA
Brno Blocks asked city officials to ban the march, or dissolve it as soon as it begins. But Brno City Hall tried to ban the march – only to see the ban overturned by a local court, arguing it was not fully justified. This has happened in other communities around the Czech Republic that tried to ban similar events in the past. Officials complain current legislation makes it next to impossible to officially ban such marches; Brno City Hall even petitioned the country’s Constitutional Court to abolish the Czech Freedom of Assembly Act, which in their view breaches the municipalities’ rights to maintain public order. But Jiří Koželouh from the Brno Blocks group says no change to the law is needed.

“I think that municipalities have to use all relevant information and act very fast. For example, Brno authorities did not use public information about the neo-Nazi background of the organizers and their links with some extremist organizations like Workers’ Youth and Workers’ Party. So I don’t think there is a need for more restrictions of public gatherings; what we need is better work of the authorities and the police.”

Brno Blocks says their blockade will be non-violent. But in the past, police in fact removed protestors blocking the routes of extremist marches in other Czech towns.

Two years ago, Brno experienced a similar event. Around 500 far-right extremists took part in a march through the city centre, organized by the Workers Party. Last year, the party was dissolved because of its links to neo-Nazi groups, and four of the march’s organizers landed conditional sentences and fines for inciting hatred in the addresses they delivered at the event.