News

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Police presence prevents neo-Nazis from marching in Jewish quarter

1,400 police came out in force in Prague’s historic Jewish quarter as well as other parts of Prague on Saturday, a day when right-wing radicals said they would go ahead with a march officially banned by the city. November 10th marks the anniversary of the Nazi pogrom Kristallnacht, which targeted Jews in Germany in 1938. Prague City Hall made clear from the start it would break up any unauthorised demonstration. In the end, neo-Nazi extremists did not gather in the numbers expected; nor did any tried to break through where police were stationed. In a televised press conference early Saturday evening, Prague Mayor Pavel Bem said that the police had done an exemplary job in preventing the march from going ahead. He also stressed that incidents of violence in areas of Prague throughout the day had been isolated, and that if it stopped at that he would “be happy”.

According to the mayor, around 1,000 anarchists descended on Prague on Saturday, along with between 300-400 right-wing extremists.

Tourists stay away from historic quarter

Many shops in the Jewish quarter of Josefov remained closed for the day and the area was mostly empty of tourists. Police set up a barricade in the Jewish quarter where the neo-Nazis’ march was to start, and situated police, transport and emergency vehicles at strategic locations.

Skinheads clash with anarchists

In related news, right-wing radicals at the edge of the historic Jewish quarter did clash briefly with anarchists, near Prague’s Faculty of Law building on Saturday evening. Anarchists tried – but failed – to break through a police blockade on Prague’s Parizska Street, and were pushed back by riot police. The anarchists then clashed with neo-Nazis in brutal hand-to-hand fighting which lasted ten minutes. One of the neo-Nazis reportedly fired into the crowd with an air pistol, before he was charged by anarchists and beaten. Three people were injured in the incident.

Isolated clashes continue into Saturday evening

Later on Saturday evening, left-wing radicals and right-wing extremists dispersed into parts of the Czech capital, leading to a number of isolated incidents between the two camps. Police had to help shelter a skinhead in their vehicle in the centre, after he was cornered by a larger crowd. Some 200 skinheads are now said to be gathering at the city’s Palacky square, meaning additional incidents can not be ruled out.

Right-wing extremists arrested following clash

Earlier on Saturday, police clashed with around 100 right-wing extremists gathering in Prague’s Vysocany district. Seven individuals were arrested in the incident.

Thirty arrested carrying concealed weapons

In another incident, in Prague’s Sokolovska Street, police arrested an additional 30 individuals carrying concealed weapons. The police found telescopic batons, home-made explosives, and edged weapons.

Two busloads of extremists allowed to cross Czech-German border

Throughout the day police also monitored two buses with around 150 right-wing extremists that were allowed to cross into the Czech Republic from Germany. According to a police official, officers searched the buses but found no legal reason to turn the demonstrators back. Earlier, at a meeting on Saturday, Interior Minister Ivan Langer, Police President Oldrich Martinu, city representatives, health officials, and others met to discuss options, with the police agreeing to use all lawful means possible to prevent the right-wing march from going ahead.

Jewish community holds memorial ceremony at Old-New Synagogue

The Jewish community held a memorial ceremony early on Saturday afternoon in opposition to the planned march by neo-Nazis. The ceremony was held at the Old-New Synagogue and was attended by several hundred including prominent politicians. Among the present were Prague’s Mayor Pavel Bem, Interior Minister Ivan Langer, Environment Minister Martin Bursik, and others.

Memorial ceremony held on Old Town Square

A memorial ceremony later in the day was also organised by the Jewish Liberal Union and some twenty non-governmental organisations. The event was in opposition to the neo-Nazis’ planned illegal march through the Jewish quarter. The ceremony included a prayer for the millions of victims of Nazi persecution. Some hundreds of visitors and activists attended, some of them displaying banners or signs with anti-fascist slogans.

Klaus critical of German chancellor’s initiative on climate

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has expressed “wonder” over German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach to climate change, making clear in an interview for German magazine Wirtschaftswoche that as a student of physics Mrs Merkel should be able to counter what Mr Klaus called environmentalists’ “disputable” hypotheses. In the interview, Mr Klaus said the chancellor’s plans aimed at the next fifty years reminded him of so-called “Five-Year Plans” under communism. He also repeated earlier criticism that the debate over global warming was becoming - in his view - the central ideological conflict of the present day.

In another interview this week, the Czech president – well-known for his sceptical views on global warning - also criticised former US vice president, environmentalist Al Gore, recently jointly-awarded the Nobel Peace prize, together with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

New ski season begins

The new skiing season has begun in parts of the Czech Republic, including the country’s Jizera Mountains – a record for the area. Ski runs there have reported between 15 to 20 centimetres of snow enjoyed by the first to hit the slopes. The head of the Severak ski hill reported that Saturday morning saw about 25 skiers out, along with 15 snowboarders. An increase in numbers was expected, he said, for Saturday afternoon.

NHL ice hockey: Pavelec humbles Vokoun in battle of Czech goalies

Atlanta netminder Ondrej Pavelec humbled compatriot Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers in a battle of Czech goalies on Friday night. In his third straight start, Pavelec stopped 36 shots by the Panthers and was declared the game’s first star. The Thrashers won 4:1. In other NHL action, Detroit goalie Dominik Hasek returned after a two week injury to lead the Red Wings 4:1 over Columbus. Detroit is currently atop the NHL standings.

Weather

Drizzling rain is expected into much of the weekend. Daytime temperatures in Prague are expected to reach highs of just 3 degrees Celsius.