Today: June 13, 2024
red card
November 17, 2014

Zeman makes protesters see red

Crowd in Prague indicates they are ashamed of Czech president

Large posters and loud voices alike proclaimed “Zemane do koše!” (Throw Zeman in the bin!). “I Am Ashamed of My President” read another. But most prominent of all were the red cards of various sizes held aloft in a sign of protest and rejection. The demonstration, which took place the morning of Nov. 17, lasted all of 15 minutes, squeezed in between numerous commemorations of the 1989 protest that ultimately led to the downfall of Czechoslovakia’s communist regime, but the message was clear: President Miloš Zeman has besmirched his office and rubbed a great number of his people the wrong way.

In the wake of scandals involving him returning from a state visit to China aboard the private jet of the richest Czech businessman, him awarding the country’s Medal of Merit to a rather unknown filmmaker who made a documentary about him, his unrestrained outburst referencing female genitalia on a live public radio broadcast and his attempt to downplay the seriousness of the Nov. 17, 1989 protest, among others, the protesters made their dissatisfaction with his reign very clear. All of these events took place during the past three weeks.

The remark about the Nov. 17, 1989 protest — he implied there was very little police brutality, a statement decried by the hordes who were actually present and seriously injured by during the clashes when protesters tried to flee Národní Street through Voršilská Street only to find themselves running a gantlet with police batons raining down on them — was made in a public debate before the weekend, just as the country was getting ready to remember the events.

The crowd of thousands that snaked from the new Quadrio complex in Spálená Street, around the corner into Národní Street, past the Nov. 17 monument on the wall of the Kaňkův palác and right up to Voršilská Street, was calm as they held up their red cards (some of which were handed out by volunteers) at various intervals. Some whistled, while others were focused and silent.

The speaker at the microphone had little to say and could barely be heard, but he did make a final plea to the crowd to send their red cards to the Castle in a show of collective disgust at the sorry state the country’s presidency has become over these past few weeks.

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