Freedom and democracy anniversary marked by political discontent
Czechs on Saturday marked the 29th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that triggered the fall of communism in 1989. Traditionally the anniversary was marked by public gatherings, concerts, marches and cultural events, but this year public discontent with the political situation brought a tense atmosphere to the celebrations.
The embattled Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, broke with tradition, going to Národní St. at midnight to pay his respects in order to avoid an angry crowd, but was still jeered by passers-by out late and populist politician Tomio Okamura also arrived during the night hours. President Miloš Zeman said he would not be making any public appearances on that day, simply sending a wreath to the monument at Národní St. All their flowers and wreaths ended up in nearby bins, trashed by angry protesters.
Opposition politicians warned that this year was a memento of how easy it would be to lose the democratic gains won by the Velvet Revolution and the deputy chair of the Senate Milan Stěch said how sorry he was to see Czech society so deeply divided.
The commemorative events and street celebrations culminate with a Concert for the Future on Wenceslas Square. In a gala ceremony at the National Theatre the non-profit organisation Post Bellum will hand out its annual Memory of the Nation awards.