The failure of neo-Nazis to march through Prague’s Jewish quarter – and the subsequent skirmishes between skinheads and anarchist demonstrators – have certainly dominated the headlines in recent days. Images of battered and bloodied skinheads being taken away by police were flashed around the world’s media, who described Saturday as a fiasco for the far right. But could next weekend turn into a second instalment?
“The neo-Nazis’ Waterloo” was how Lidove Noviny newspaper described Saturday’s clashes, featuring an image of a neo-Nazi skinhead, his nose bleeding and looking very much worse for wear. The far-right – massively outnumbered by black-clad anarchist demonstrators – certainly received a bloody nose on Saturday. But observers believe the neo-Nazis are now out for revenge. A group calling themselves “Autonomous Nationalists” have released a statement on their website, calling for a gathering at 2pm on Saturday to “mourn the death of the freedom of speech.” Klara Kalibova monitors far-right extremism for an NGO called Tolerance and Civic Society:
“The Autonomous Nationalists are a relatively young group, about 2-3 years old. They’re active mostly in Central Bohemia. They belong to the neo-Nazi wing of right-wing extremism. They’re linked to National Resistance, the militant neo-Nazi group which is active all over the Czech Republic. We’ve also found a link between them and German neo-Nazis – the Autonomous Nationalists have supported actions by the NPD, which is a neo-Nazi political party in Germany.”
The Autonomous Nationalists plan to gather on Palacky Square in Prague 2. Unlike the Young National Democrats, the far-right group that was denied permission to march through the Jewish quarter on Krystallnacht, the Autonomous Nationalists don’t actually need permission for their demonstration on Saturday. Palacky Square was recently designated a “Hyde Park Corner”, where anyone can gather to discuss the issues of the day. Saturday’s meeting is unlikely to be the polite “discussion” the organisers of the Czech “Hyde Park” had in mind – the neo-Nazi skinheads are out for revenge, and the gathering is likely to attract a large contingent of anarchist opponents.
Groups such as Tolerance and Civic Society warn that the far-right is becoming more and more active in the Czech Republic. The number of racially-motivated attacks is down compared to the 1990s, when skinhead attacks on Romanies and foreigners – including several murders - were common. Now, warn observers, such groups are making a concerted bid for political respectability.
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