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Prague: Hundreds of thousands in anti-government protests

November 16, 2019

Over 200,000 people took to the streets of Prague on Saturday as part of anti-government protests. Sunday marks 30 years since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that led to the fall of communism in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Protests in Prague
Image: Reuters/D. W. Cerny

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the Czech capital on Saturday as part of major anti-government protests.

This comes one day ahead of the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution, a series of nonviolent mass protests that led to the overthrow of communism in what was then Czechoslovakia. The bloodless revolution was the basis for the founding of the Czech Republic as a democratic state.

Police estimated that 200,000 people were on the streets, while organizers put the number at up to 300,000.

Saturday's protest was organized by activist group Million Moments for Democracy, which has staged numerous protests against the government of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, urging him to resign.

Read more: Andrej Babis — The anti-migrant Czech premier and his migrant workers

Anti-government protest in Prague
Anti-government protest in PragueImage: Reuters/D. W. Cerny

'Fight for democracy'

DW's Jonathan Crane talked to some of the protesters, with one woman describing the Czech government as a "mess." "We need to do something for our country to make it better," said Nicole Harapesova.

Another protester, Petr Hnidek, said that the anniversary was significant because it symbolized "the fight for democracy and against totalitarianism."

"We are protesting against the abuse of power by those who won the election," said Benjamin Roll, one of the protest's organizers.

"Should they be allowed to do anything? The struggle for freedom and democracy never ends," he added, referencing the Velvet Revolution.

Read more: Spirit of dissent lives as Czechs mark Velvet Revolution with protest

A woman holds a sign with a picture of the first Czech president, Vaclav Havel
A woman holds a sign with a picture of the first Czech president, Vaclav Havel Image: Reuters/D. W. Cerny

Who is Andrej Babis?

Babis, a billionaire businessman and leader of the center-right populist ANO party, has been accused of intimidating his rivals and of corruption. He is the first prime minister since the formation of the Czech Republic whose government relies on support from the Communist Party.

Corruption charges were later dropped against Babis, after his government survived a no-confidence vote.

Demonstrators are giving Babis a deadline of December 31 to get rid of his business and media empire or resign.

Tomas Petricek on Conflict Zone

The protests kicked off on the Letna hill overlooking central Prague. Organizers hope to repeat the success of a similar protest in June that was the largest of its kind since 1989.

ed/bk (dpa, Reuters, AP)

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