CzechTek clashes inspire a latter-day protest song

05-08-2005

What has the Czech singer/songwriter, Jaromir Nohavica - singing to the nothing more than an acoustic guitar - have in common with the endlessly repetitive rhythms of Techno? The answer is quite simple. Nohavica, famed for his protest songs going back to the days of communism and his role in the recent Czech film Year of the Devil, has composed a brand new protest song. He is responding to last weekend's huge techno-party that ended in violent clashes between participants and the police, who used tear gas, water cannon and batons to end the rave. The police intervention has divided Czech society between those, including the Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, who say that the police were simply fulfilling their duty to preserve law and order and those, including President Vaclav Klaus, and his predecessor Vaclav Havel, who say that the intervention was vastly out of scale.

Many who share that view, have drawn parallels with the days of the old regime - among them Jaromir Nohavica, whose song is provocatively called: "They're Beating the Children Again".

The words go something like this:

"They're beating the children again
With plastic clubs
Once again there is talk of anarchy in the air
As in November, water is falling from the skies
With the men in armour in the background
Unfreedom is creeping towards us."

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK This is pretty strong stuff, with its references to the police violence during the Velvet Revolution of November 1989, but there have also been plenty of articles in the papers in the last few days, claiming that such reactions widely miss the mark, and laying much of the blame with the techno fans themselves.

Polls have suggested that public opinion is divided 50-50. Prime Minister Paroubek has now acknowledged that there may have been individual cases of police excess, but he stands by his view that the great majority of officers were just doing their job - to keep law and order. The row looks set to run and run, and it shows how, even 16 years after the fall of communism, the role of the police remains a highly sensitive issue in the Czech Republic.

05-08-2005