Pro-democracy demonstration shows support for Ukraine still strong in Czechia

Tens of thousands of people joined a rally “against fear” in Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Sunday.  The demonstration, called by the civic association Million Moments for Democracy, came at a time when fear of rising prices and the looming energy crunch have led some Czechs to question the foreign policy of the Fiala administration and the country’s staunch support for Ukraine.

Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

The rally “against fear” came just two days after protesters on Wenceslas Square called for the departure of the Fiala government, accusing it of helping Ukraine at the expense of its own citizens and demanding a U-turn in the country’s foreign policy.

The huge turnout to the pro-democracy rally on Sunday showed that even in the face of economic hardship there are still plenty of Czechs who stand with Ukraine and are willing to get out in the streets to stand up for Western values.

Hana Strašáková, from Million Moments for Democracy, explains why the demonstration was called a rally “against fear”.

Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

We see fear as a key factor in the radical and extremist tendencies present at the anti-government demonstrations that have been going on for several months now. These protesters are basically calling for the undermining and ultimately the end of democracy.

Jana from Prague told Czech Radio why she was at the demonstration.

“I came because of my children and their children, my grandchildren, because I don’t want them to experience what we went through when we were young.”

Her husband, Jiří, gives a different reason.

“We are Europe, and we have to somehow promote that and show that it’s still valid.”

Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

But the tens of thousands who gathered in Wenceslas Square came not only from Prague, but from all over the country. Olga from Olomouc says she wanted to show that people from outside the capital also care about protecting democratic values.

“I care a lot about democracy and we want to show that it’s not just people from Prague, there are more of us – even from the smaller cities such as Olomouc.”

A group from Otrokovice in Moravia held a banner that read “indifference opens the door to evil.” One of them explains the thinking behind the slogan.

“It’s a slightly paraphrased version of the quotation by Václav Havel, which says that nowadays we take democracy for granted, we think that it will always be here without us having to fight for it, but that isn’t true.”

Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

Well-known documentary film director Helena Třeštíková attended the demonstration and told Czech Radio why disinformation is so dangerous for democracy.

“We don’t have bombs falling on our heads but we are bombarded by different kinds of fake news, which can cause a huge amount of damage – a different kind of damage to bombs, but huge nevertheless.”

Police estimated the turnout to be in the tens of thousands. They estimated the numbers at Friday's anti-government protest to be similar, but according to the Czech News Agency, the square was significantly more crowded on Sunday.