Political Activism, Prague Style

I’ve lived here 18 years and this city still surprises me.  Generally, it is about the most politically apathetic place I’ve ever been.  When literally millions of people were marching in the streets of Rome and London to protest the American massacre of Iraq, we could barely muster a dozen for a candlelight vigil in old town square.

pravda a laska

Truth and Love

The other day, though, the president of China paid a visit.  There were protests, counter protests, and a technological-artistic protest of mind blowing brilliance and simplicity.  The protesters threw paint on the Chinese flags which lined the route to the castle, held signs saying ‘Remember Tienanmen’ and stuff like that, and made a lot of noise with kazoos.  They seemed to be mostly Chinese.

That was an interesting aspect to it.  There is a Chinese community in Prague.  I don’t know any of them personally.  I suspect most white people don’t.  They are the nice folks running all those restaurants and quite a few of the potravinies, but we don’t know their politics.  They give  change and don’t glare at their customers, and we leave it at that.

The counter protesters were also Chinese, but they were organized by the Chinese embassy, bused from place to place, and wouldn’t talk to the press.

The protest that knocked me out, though, that made me think ‘this is what protest demonstrations should be like in the future, was a light show.  ‘Truth and Love’ (in Czech) and other slogans were projected on the walls of Prague Castle, and ‘Free Tibet’ in English.

Police said they figured out where it was coming from, but they never found the projector, and haven’t made any arrests.  I don’t know that any laws were even broken, although  I’m sure police would have shut it down if they could have.

I don’t know if the perpetrators were Czech or Chinese, but I suspect Czech.  It’s got a David  Cerny vibe to it.  In either case, it’s brilliant.  If you choose your screen correctly, your message can be visible to massive numbers of people.  There’s no sound, so it’s not as offputting as most protest demonstrations.  It’s not vandalism, like graffiti, because it’s temporary.  It’s cool, it looks like the Bat Signal.  Nobody needs to get arrested or beat up by police.  In fact, by the time the police figure out where it came from, if they ever do, you can be long gone.

I hope to see more protests like this in future (but only for causes I agree with)


1 Comment

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One response to “Political Activism, Prague Style

  1. Michal

    I like the article but would like to put right a couple of statements mentioned:
    1) “They seemed to be mostly Chinese”. There were a few Chinese looking people among protesters but 90% were Czechs. Just look at the videos.
    2) “They are the nice folks running all those restaurants and quite a few of the potravinies.” These shops are in 90% run by Vietnamese.

    The saddest thing that happened in Prague during the event was Czech Police acting on multiple occassions against peaceful protesters while disregarding the agressive embassy-arranged Chinese crowd beating the local people with flag poles. Some Chinese looked like government agents. This shows Czech Police heads are controlled by pro-totalitarian politicians and associated business lobby. I suggest that the writing on Czech police cars “to help and to protect” is modified to “to help and to protect Chineses against our own people”. What shall I tell my children now? “Son, I see a policeman nearby, we’d better avoid him.”?! Thumb down for Czech Police.

    Exactly the same scenario (Chinese crowd beating locals and wrapping protesters into gigantic red flags with Slovak Police either just watching or helping those Chinese) happened in Slovakia some years ago during former China president visit.

    As noted on a web discussion: “One just cannot imagine for example American policemen beating fellow Americans and acting in favour of agressive Chinese crowd just to please some American politicians.”

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