Litvínov/Praha - In what many called the most violent Czech rally since the 2000 protests against an IMF summit in Prague, 600 far-right sympathisers clashed with riot police on Monday in the north-Bohemian town of Litvínov.
The event took place on a national holiday marking the fall of the communist regime on 17 November 1989, a day on which communist police for the last time used violence against protesters in Prague.
Some 600 sympathisers of the far-right Workers' Party (Dělnická strana) arrived in Litvínov on Monday to protest against the government's policy and the influx of immigrants on the main square. Later the crowd started marching towards Janov, a neighbourhood where most Litvínov Roma live.
The riot police, including 1,000 officers and a special conflict management team, spent four hours preventing a violent clash between the extremists and the Roma community.
The police deployed maroons, tear gas, water cannons and armoured vehicles against flying cobblestones and homemade hand grenades. The atmosphere of a battlefield was underlined by the sound of a helicopter circling overhead.
Fifteen people were injured, including seven policemen, seven extremists and a journalist who was hit by a stone in her head. Police arrested fifteen people and seized weapons ranging from knives to firearms and nail-studded sticks.
US radar main issue of Prague rallies
Meanwhile in the centre of Prague, the commemoration of 17 November 1989 was overshadowed by protests against the planned deployment of a US missile defence radar on Czech soil. The No Bases group used the 17 November memorial in Národní třída to unfurl their banners, enraging those who merely came to light a candle.
Supporters of the US radar project - including singer Michael Kocáb and Green Party MP Kateřina Jacques - showed up with American flags to outweigh the anti-radar protests.
At 5pm, some 600 people rallied in the centre of Prague and later marched to the government buildings to demand a resignation of the government.