More than 250,000 gather in Prague for anti-government protest

More than 250,000 gather in Prague for anti-government protest
A quarter of million people turned out for the biggest mass protest in Prague since the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
By bne IntelliNews June 24, 2019

A series of protests against the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and his minority government culminated on June 23 with the biggest mass protest in Prague since the Velvet Revolution in 1989. More than 250,000 people gathered on Letna plain, Denik N reported on June 23.

The organizers of the protest from the Million Moments for Democracy initiative estimated that a quarter of a million people protested against Babis and the Czech mobile operator T-Mobile confirmed their estimate of 258,000 in attendance, the Czech News Agency reported. Other people showed their support from abroad, for example in London and Brussels.

The next demonstration on Letna has been scheduled for November 16, to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution 30 years ago.

The leader of the initiative Mikulas Minar criticized a recent amendment of the state prosecutor’s office act proposed by the Justice minister Marie Benesova. Although the amendment is set to come in force in 2022 and cannot be misused by the current government, it would still mean that the PM can dismiss the state prosecutor at any time.

”I thought that Letna is not going to happen again. That it won’t have to. But reality is different. We came here to stand for democracy. For two months, we have protested to support an independent judiciary and against the bad government. We’ve achieved that maybe everyone is aware of the Prime Minister’s issues and that higher attention is drawn to politicians. More and more people care about democracy and are willing to do something about it,” said one of the organizers Benjamin Roll.

Speakers who took the stage addressed not only Babis’ conflict of interest and the issues brought up by the European Commission’s audit reports, but denounced his decision to block 2050 carbon neutrality goal and openly criticized Czech President Milos Zeman who showed his full support to Babis .

As covered by bne IntelliNews, Wenceslas Square in the heart of Prague, a symbol of the fall of communism in 1989, hosted the previous protests on June 4, and the organizers planned to keep the momentum up and fill Letna Plain with 200,000 protesters from all parts of the country on June 23.

Last week, the opposition in the Czech lower house of parliament announced it wants to initiate a no-confidence vote in the coalition government of Andrej Babis’ ANO and the Social Democrats. The five opposition parties — the Civic Democrats, the Pirates, Mayors & Independents, the Christian Democrats and TOP 09 — stated that even though they don’t have needed majority to succeed, they intend to call a no-confidence vote in the PM's government over his suspected conflicts of interest, as a moral gesture.