March of Solidarity with Belarus planned in Prague this weekend

People demonstrate in support of Belarusians in Warsaw, photo: ČTK / AP Photo / Czarek Sokolowski

A March of Solidarity with the People of Belarus is planned to take place in Prague on Saturday afternoon, following police brutality against citizens questioning the recent electoral victory of President Alexander Lukashenko. To find out more about the event and its aims, I spoke to the main organiser Max Shchur, who is himself from Belarus.

Workers react as they gather during a rally at the Minsk Automobile Plant in Minsk,  photo: ČTK / AP Photo / Sergei Grits

“The main goal that we want to reach and what we want to show the people is that we are here and we want to urge the international community, the Czech people and Czech politicians to act. We want them to react somehow to what is going on in Belarus.

“What is happening on there is completely horrible and I think even unimaginable at this time in a continent such as Europe. I want the general public to pay attention to us and what is going on in Belarus. I also want those Czech politicians who will be at the end of our rally to say what they think about it and what they are going to do about this situation.

“We should have representatives from several political parties and movements at the march, mainly from the Pirate Party. We want as many as possible to join us, because the situation in Belarus right now is really hard and we need as much support as we can get.”

A woman fights with a police officer in Minsk,  photo: ČTK / AP Photo

You say you also want the Czech people to hear you. How many people are you expecting to come?

“I don’t think that there will be as many Czech people there as we would like, because it is Saturday and Czech people tend to leave the city [over the weekend], which is quite understandable.

“However, Saturday was chosen, because there are many Belarusians working in the Czech Republic, in other towns and cities outside Prague. This is normally the only day when they can attend these sorts of events. We expect them to take part in this rally, but also expect those Czech people who are active to come.

“They can also come on Sunday to Old Town Square at 6pm, where there will be another rally. We expect ours will be a bit louder, but perhaps the Sunday event will be attended by more people.”

Andrej Babiš,  photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

You say you want to hear a proper reaction from Czech politicians, but those in government have been quite outspoken. The foreign minister has condemned the crackdown and the prime minister, Andrej Babiš, called for new presidential elections to be held in Belarus [and wants quick action on the EU level]. Do you think these statements are headed in the right direction or what else would you like to see from the Czech side?

“I know about the immediate reactions by Czech politicians to the elections and so on. However, the situation is developing and changing every day.

“Right now the main issue in Belarus is the police brutality. It is not even a political crisis anymore really, rather a humanitarian crisis of sorts. This small group of people in power in Belarus do everything to punish their own people and keep their hold on power. So, this is what I want the international community to pay attention to. I think that all of these political steps that Czech politicians can take are ok, but we need to think on a broader international level.

Alexander Lukashenko,  photo: ČTK / AP Photo / Andrei Stasevich/BelTA

“What we want, and what I personally would demand from them, is not to recognise Alexander Lukashenko as president any more, or even as a politician. He is not a political figure anymore. He is just a criminal in power and a bandit practically.”

I heard that the weekend events will also include a simulated “run” from OMON [the Special Purpose Police Units which have been cracking down on protesters]. Are you going ahead with that?

“From what I know, it is a performance which will be part of the Sunday event.

“Our action is more straightforward. We will simply gather together, march through the city and then we will arrive in front of the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and listen to Czech politicians who will be speaking and telling us about their vision of the events.

“Our main concern is the visual part. To march through the tourist centre and to show, also to the international community, that there is a big problem going on.”