Public and leading state representatives honour anniversary of Velvet Revolution

Leading constitutional officials, politicians and the wider public are honouring the 32nd anniversary of the Velvet Revolution this Wednesday.

The first official to place a wreath at the memorial on Prague’s Národní třída, where a brutal Communist police crackdown on a largely student procession sparked the Velvet Revolution on November 17, 1989, was Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, together with ministers Karel Havlíček and Alena Schillerová (all ANO). Mr Babiš visited the site at around 6am in the morning, Czech Television reports. He said he came early, because his security guards warned him that there were plans by protestors to throw eggs at him. Due to records in Slovakia showing that he was a Communist State Security Service agent, he has been the subject of insults when appearing at the site in public in the past. The site is being guarded by police officers.

A representative of the Office of the President laid a wreath at the memorial at around 8am. President Miloš Zeman is unable to come personally due to being in hospital.

Leading members of the recent election-winning Together coalition (Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats, TOP09) visited Národní třída at around 11am, also laying wreaths at the memorial.

Representatives of the Pirate Party and the Mayors and Independents visited the site later during the morning hours. Mayors and Independents Chairman Vít Rakušan said that this year’s celebrations are unique, because it is the first time since the revolution that the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia is not represented in the Czech Chamber of Deputies. Pirate Party leader Ivan Bartoš stressed the importance of a well educated and informed public for maintaining democracy.

Due to convalescence, Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib was unable to attend. However, in view of the rising number of coronavirus infections, he recommended that people wear respirators outdoors at public spaces during the celebrations.

Memorial acts are also being held at Hlávkova College, where SS and Nazi police units arrested students before sending them to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in 1939. November 17 is also remembered as the day on which Nazi Germany closed universities across the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in 1939. Among the attendants of the event was former Czech President Václav Klaus. A critic of pandemic measures, Mr Klaus said he was concerned that times which people thought would not return are coming back. Speaking shortly thereafter, the Chairman of the Student’s Chamber of the Council of Universities Michal Farník accused the former president of “trivialising the pandemic” with his speech.

Author: Tom McEnchroe