Czech school pupils in nationwide support of constitution and democratic values

Students' gathering at Václav Havel square, Prague, March 15, 2018, photo: CTK

High and middle school students from around the Czech Republic have taken part in meetings to call for law makers and institutions to respect the constitutional and democratic values. Organisers say that recent developments have caused them to fear for the future of democracy in the country.

Students' gathering at Václav Havel square,  Prague,  March 15,  2018,  photo: CTK
The around half hour meetings at noon on Thursday represent some of the biggest manifestations across the country in recent months. And it was perhaps poignant that most of the participants were high school and middle school students, that means mostly teenagers. And they stressed that the gatherings in towns and cities across the country were not protests or demonstrations against something but rather affirmations of support for the country’s democratic institutions and values.

One of the gatherings took place in central Prague’s Náměstí Míru with three secondary schools taking part and an estimated 300-400 pupils. One of the organisers was Richard Mašek who described why he and the other pupils were taking part:

ʺAll these students here were able to express their faith in the constitution. And that is extremely important, to express the positive feelings about it and not the negative ones. We have an extremely strong constitution. We have the constitutional tradition since the First Republic, since 1918. And now just now have to come back and preserve these values of the constitution and this is the important thing.ʺ

Students' gathering at Václav Havel square,  Prague,  March 15,  2018,  photo: CTK
One of the main organisers of the nationwide gatherings, followed by a return to classes, was the theatre faculty of Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts. And it was perhaps appropriate in that context that many actors and actresses from the nearby Prague Vinohrady Theatre were also on hand to support the pupils and sign the petition calling for constitutional values to be respected and upheld.

Stressing the fact that he was speaking personally and not for the student body or school, Richard Mašek described some of the recent developments that have heightened his fears about the erosion of the Czech Republic’s constitutional foundations and democratic values:

ʺThese are the last steps of president Zeman and some members of parliament. We are now 25 years after the Velvet Revolution against the communist government. We are in a situation where a non-democratic party has seats in the Czech parliament and, fortunately, not in the Senate. These are the things that make me so nervous about this situation. Some of the politicians say that we should refuse the principles of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), of the European Union, of these Western organisations and that makes me nervous.ʺ

Students' gathering in Olomouc,  March 15,  2018,  photo: CTK
Others point to the role of the current caretaker government of prime minister Andrej Babiš and the fact that many decisions are being taken although the government has no parliamentary majority and has not won a vote of confidence.

The students say that this is not a one off action but that they will be maintaining their pressure. They point out that many of them will soon be of voting age and all of them will soon be stepping up to their roles as citizens. And they add that it’s their future which is largely at stake if the country fails to uphold the democratic values of the last quarter century.