Plzeň braces - again – for neo-Nazi march
For the second time this year, the city of Plzeň in West Bohemia is bracing itself for a march by neo-Nazi skinheads. As many as 400 skinheads will march down a route that takes them past Plzeň’s Great Synagogue, the second largest in Europe. Efforts to ban the march have exhausted all legal avenues; the authorities are now concentrating on keeping groups of skinheads and anti-Nazi protestors apart. And politicians are looking to how future marches can be avoided without curtailing the freedom of speech. Rob Cameron has more.
“The centre of town could be dangerous tomorrow: I’m not saying it will be, I’m saying it could be. We’re prepared to suspend public transport. We’re prepared to keep the far-right marchers apart from other groups of people. We’re capable of keeping the marchers together to avoid any isolated clashes, at least until the end of the march.”
“We’re calling on people not to gather in front of the synagogue because we don’t want to break the law. The gathering has been banned, and we don’t want anyone to get hurt. If somebody does decide to go, then it’s at their own risk.”
The neo-Nazi march is only going ahead after the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that a decision by Pavel Rödl to ban a previous skinhead march – planned for January 19th – was unlawful. The court ruled that the mayor of Plzeň acted illegally by not announcing the ban within three days of the organisers filing the request, as stipulated under legislation guaranteeing the freedom of assembly.
Plzeň Jewish community leader Eva Štixová for one says the period should be extended to at least five days – others want even tougher legal measures against the far right. But in a country where freedom of assembly was curtailed for four decades, any curbs on that freedom will always be controversial.