Multiple criminal complaints filed over “Our Violence” play in Brno

Photo: ČTK/Igor Šefr

A group of right-wing protestors who over the weekend disrupted a theatre performance of the controversial play by Croatian director Oliver Frljić have filed a criminal complaint against one of the lead actors as well as the director of the National Theatre in Brno for propagating religious intolerance and defamation of a state symbol. Two other complaints are also pending.

'Movement of Decent People' disrupt the play 'Our Violence,  Your Violence',  photo: ČTK/Igor Šefr
At one point in the play “Our Violence, Your Violence” – throughout much of which the actors appear naked – an actor depicting Jesus rapes a Muslim woman. In another scene, a Muslim woman wearing only a headscarf slowly pulls a bloody Czech national flag out of her vagina.

It was at that point when the protest group “Movement of Decent People” forced its way onto the stage of the Goose on a String theatre. They then formed a human barrier to stop the audience from watching, all the while blowing whistles and throwing paper wads at the actors. Now, they are accusing an actor and National Theatre in Brno director Martin Glaser of propagating religious intolerance and the defamation a state symbol. For his part, Martin Glaser says the Movement – labelled “extremist” by the Interior Ministry – is entitled to voice their opinion, but had no right to disrupt the play. More alarmingly, he says, their tactics mimicked those of fascist censors in Nazi Germany and communist ones in Czechoslovakia.

'Movement of Decent People',  photo: ČTK/Igor Šefr
“I think such acts are truly a serious threat to democracy… Of course, everyone has a right to protest. If there were 50 demonstrators on the square outside the Goose on a String theatre, that’d be fine. All petitions, articles, discussions in the media and on the street are also fine. But for someone to barge into a theatre and say ‘this is our theatre’ and you – the audience, who came to see this play – can’t see it because we don’t approve of it: that’s how it began in the 30s with fascism and also with communism.”

The Movement’s leader, mixed martial arts fighter Zdeněk Pernica, says in his complaint to police that the play was itself a criminal “rape of free expression” and an affront to Christianity and the Czech nation.

Meanwhile, a former Social Democrat deputy and associate professor of constitutional law at the Masaryk University in Brno, Zdeněk Koudelka, has also accused Glaser – and Brno’s mayor – of allowing the defamation of state symbols and breaching their duty to manage public property. Independent Senator Eliška Wagnerová, on the other hand, has accused the Movement of disrupting a peaceful assembly.

The Czech Association of Professional Theatres has come out in support of Mr Glaser, noting that freedom of artistic expression is enshrined in the Czech Constitution and the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom.

Photo: ČTK/Igor Šefr
But the South-Moravian region has indicated it will cut a planned subsidy to the theatre festival in which “Our Violence, Your Violence” featured, along with another Frljić play called “The Curse”, which condemns church authorities for failing to respond to allegations of child abuse by clergymen.

In that play’s most notorious scene, an actor simulates oral sex on a plastic statue of the late Pope John Paul II, as a sign reads: “Defender of paedophiles”. Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka, who in April condemned the Brno theatre festival for planning to feature the Frljić plays, he said in protest the Catholic Church would not take part in festivals supported by Brno commemorating the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s founding.