Resistance growing to planned neo-Nazi march through Jewish Quarter

After a great deal of legal toing and froing, a march by neo-Nazis through Prague's historic Jewish Quarter now looks set to go ahead on November 10, the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938. But there is some resistance: the Prague Town Hall has renewed its efforts to block the demonstration, the Jewish Community is organizing a counter-event, and the Czech president no less has called for it to be stopped.

Some time ago a known neo-Nazi named Erik Sedlacek obtained a permit to hold a demonstration in Prague's Josefov Jewish Quarter, ostensibly against the war in Iraq. But when the Prague Town Hall realised who they were dealing with, and that the date coincided with the 69th anniversary of Kristallnacht, they banned the march. However, due to procedural flaws a Prague Court twice upheld objections that such an injunction was unlawful.

Many have been alarmed at the idea of such a march, among them the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, who on Tuesday urged the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, to prohibit it.

Old New Synagogue
Mr Klaus subsequently condemned the demonstration strongly, saying it could not be tolerated under the pretext of freedom of speech and assembly. The president in turn called on the authorities to do all they could to block the far-right event.

Now the Prague Town Hall has filed a complaint against the latest court decision overturning the Town Hall's ban. However, this move is unlikely to achieve anything, as the court to which it has appealed does not have the power to prevent the march.

Meanwhile, Jewish community leaders have organised a prayer and memorial gathering to honour the victims of Kristallnacht for the same time (Saturday November 10 at 2 pm) and place (Maislova St) as the planned neo-Nazi march.

A Prague Town Hall spokesman said talks were going on with the city's police. One approach could be for the police to immediately disperse the march as soon as it begins, on public order grounds. But that solution would not prevent potential international embarrassment for the Czech capital. Many would prefer if things did not go that far.