Prague - While Condoleezza Rice was having dinner with some of the Czech lawmakers yesterday, hundreds of people attended a protest rally on the Wenceslas Square against signing the US radar base treaty in the Czech Republic.
US Secretary of State Rice and her Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg signed the first part of the treaty yesterday around 3 pm.
Demonstrators launched their march at 6 pm and went up to the Prague Castle where the official dinner ceremony was taking place.
Protest organizers tried to pass a petition to Dr. Rice, but policemen refused to accept it and told them to hand it over to the US embassy in Prague.
While passing through the streets of downtown Prague, the protesters cried slogans such as "Bush is a terrorist" or "Shame on our government". No incidents were reported but there was a slight tram congestion at some places.
The Communist Party (KSČM) Chairman Vojtěch Filip attended the protest, too. He alleged he had participated in almost all anti-radar protests held in the Czech Republic.
When asked by Aktuálně.cz whether he actually believed his presence would make any difference, Filip answered that probably not. "I want to support MPs who plan to vote against the radar," said the chairman.
Speeches, song and statue
Representatives of the NE Základnám (NO to bases) initiative as well as some guests, such as Jan Neoral, mayor of Brdy area's village of Trokavec and an outspoken critic of the radar, or prominent leftist activist Petr Uhl.
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Some of the demonstrators carried a paper statue of Condoleezza Rice. The demonstrators sang a specially designed song aimed at the US Secretary of State´s presence in the country.
Law on assemblies violated?
Aktuálně.cz learned that the activists didn't inform the authorities about their march.
"The organizer didn't report the march in time. It is possible that the organizer committed an offense," explained Pavel Štefaňák from Prague municipality authority. The activists can be fined with CZK 5,000.
Jan Tamáš from the NE základnám initiative informed prior to the event that their protest would be non-violent and that no conflicts with police are to be expected. In spite of this, tens of policemen and a helicopter were deployed.
Next step: Regional elections
The NE základnám initiative plans further protest actions. Their aim is to influence MPs and Senators whose job will be to decide the fate of the US radar. Local politicians will be contacted too.
"As the regional elections are approaching, the pressure will move towards the regional level, because it will be the regional candidates that will be asking us for our votes, and we will have a better chance to use our votes to assure no US base is sited in our country," believes Tamáš.