Prague shows solidarity with hate attack victims

Solidarity gathering at Prague’s Jiřího z Poděbrad square, photo: CTK

Hundreds of people gathered in Prague’s Jiřího z Poděbrad square on Monday evening to condemn the hate-related attacks on a number of the city’s shops at the weekend. Several cafés and shops in the districts of Vršovice and Vinohrady, which are part of the Hate-Free project, were sprayed with Nazi symbols and threats. I spoke to Dani Kolský, owner of one of the vandalised coffee bars, and asked him what was his initial reaction when he arrived at his café:

One of the vandalised cafés,  photo: CTK
“Actually, we were the first to discover there was something wrong going on in the city, because we are opening quite soon even on Sundays. And honestly, I was quite disappointed and I felt this was something that had no space in a democratic society.”

How serious do you think is the danger of radicalisation? I am asking because on your Twitter account you likened the act of vandalism to Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.

“Well, this was really the first impression I had, as you can see from the time I posted it. It was really a spontaneous reaction.

“With a few deeper breaths I would say that I am disappointed with the wave of populism going on in the Czech and European politics. I feel that this is part of the reaction of the street; that people who are not part of politics are trying to express their views this way.

Solidarity gathering at Prague’s Jiřího z Poděbrad square,  photo: CTK
“I was also disappointed by the reaction of the president’s spokesman, Jiří Ovčáček, who actually said there was no link between the political situation and these events. I think he is wrong and I think it is wrong to regard it this way, because we can definitely see Czech society getting more and more radical.”

Will these attacks deter you from taking part in the Hate Free project? As far as I know, one of the shop owners has already said she would quit.

“Well, first of all I have to say that we will definitely not interrupt our support for the project promoting tolerance in society because of the attack.

“We definitely feel that the project is important, especially because it deals with topics such as hate crimes and hate speech on the Internet, so we see it as a necessary part of the society. On the other hand, I understand that there are people who don’t like the project because of society, because it is funded by the government and so on.

At the same time we also feel that it is necessary to do more than that. It is really important to work with the local community and even with people who were behind the attacks, so that they realize they don’t have to express their views this way.”

Owner of one of the vandalised cafés Ondřej Kobza,  Adriana Krnáčová,  photo: CTK
Finally, Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová herself took part in the clean-up. How important do you think is public support of politicians? And would you say their condemnation of similar events is sufficient?

“From my point of view, the condemnation was not visible immediately after the attacks on Sunday. And I think political support should be much stronger, because in my view, it is not about support for an individual café, but about democratic society as such.”