Protests at Czech Extremist March Broken Up by Police

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to separate protesters from extremists during a recent neo-Nazi rally in Brno. Fifty-seven protesters were arrested after attempting to block the route of marchers.

"Nazis out of Brno!" some 2,000 people shouted in protest as supporters of the nationalist association Workers' Youth rallied in Brno, the Czech Republic's second-largest city.

Multiple attempts by the protesters to physically block the rally resulted in harsh police action against them, and both tear gas and rubber bullets were used.

The march had been announced in advance and was formally approved, which turned those blocking the march into offenders.

Neo-Nazi links

According to the blockade organizers, the Workers' Youth has clear links to neo-Nazi circles. Protesters against the extremists brought banners and posters with anti-fascist slogans, as well as others with the image of Gandhi, a preacher of passive resistance.

Roughly 200 radical supporters of the Workers’ Youth and the Workers' Social Justice Party initially gathered in Brno's main square. According to the chairman of the Workers' Social Justice Party, who gave a speech at the beginning of the event, Europe needs to defend itself against immigrants.

He spoke of the hordes of immigrants flooding Europe, who, he said, set fire to shops and threaten locals. He said that Europe must secure its Mediterranean border and guard it with military ships, returning all detained refugees back to their countries of origin.

57 arrests

Initially, opponents of the extremists had successfully blocked the street that the procession was to pass through, setting up a potential confrontation between the two camps. The police deployed riot troops, mounted police, and even a helicopter, and quickly separated the two groups.

The police arrested 57 people during the protest. Supporters of the blockade had to rinse tear gas from their eyes and many suffered bruises. After the police intervention, the Workers' Youth march was able to return to its original route.

Although the extremist march was formally approved, some Brno politicians strongly opposed it, and some even came to support the blockade.

"It is a blatant provocation, during the days we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, to organize events that directly refer to Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s," said one of the deputy mayors.

According to blockade organizers, their passive resistance stood against the efforts of some groups to implement themselves within the legal framework of democracy, but in a direction that denies many of its values.

Acts of civil disobedience, which the blockading protesters are legally guilty of, can be classified only as misdemeanors. But they are also clear expressions of liberal citizenship, and the question remains whether the police of a democratic state have any right to use repressive means to disrupt instances of passive civil disobedience.