Low turnout for Prague's antiwar protests

As part of the worldwide protests against a possible war on Iraq, two antiwar protests occurred in Prague on Saturday. One was organised by the student group Initiative Against War and took place on Jan Palach Square, while the other was staged by the Communist Party on Wenceslas Square. Only around 1,500 people participated in these protests, which is relatively low when compared to the turnout for other antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend.

Prague's antiwar protests, Photo: CTKPrague's antiwar protests, Photo: CTK Prague's Rob Cameron spoke to one of the protesters on Jan Palach Square, Prague resident Arie Farnam, who is a coordinator for the antiwar group International Peace Marches:

"I'd say that this is the umbrella organisation demonstration. It's Initiative against War, which is a student-based initiative that basically brings together students from all the different kinds of social and political organisations that are concerned about war. Then there are the International Peace Marches, which includes Americans, Irish, Slovaks, Nepalis, everybody. And there is the initiative Not in My Name. This is different from the Communist Party demonstration, in that it's basically for everybody and not based on propaganda for one particular party. It's based on the issue."

Prague's antiwar protests, Photo: CTKPrague's antiwar protests, Photo: CTK Well, I was going to ask, the Communists are holding their own demonstration in about an hour and a half on Wenceslas Square. Wouldn't it have been wiser to combine the two, because then you would have come out really in force?

"Yes, in some ways it would be nice to be able to combine things. One of the problems is that parties like that that have a lot of power and are interested in votes, rather than in the... well, I mean they are interested in the issue but they are also interested in votes, and they are often interested in putting their name very high. I mean, their signs say "KSCM against War," rather than "No War," which is what these other groups are interested in. And many Czechs have a problem with that, because of the history of the Communist Party. And you know, we don't want the Communist Party to take the name of the peace movement, because it's not about them. "Prague's antiwar protests, Photo: CTKPrague's antiwar protests, Photo: CTK

And here is what some of the other people at the protest on Jan Palach Square had to say:

"The fact is that half of the people here are foreigners or expats living in Prague. I think that Czech people are sort of fed up with demonstrations, because they know that nothing is going to change anyway. It's the same thing as with the presidential elections: we're just fed up with these things, Czechs are."

"We're just actually not quite sure if the war in Iraq is necessary. We think that it is not necessary, and that there are some other possibilities to resolve this situation. And so we are here just to say no to war in this situation."