3:18 pm

Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day

As International Students Day, November 17 commemorates the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations against the killing of Jan Opletal and the occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the execution of nine student leaders, over 1200 students sent to concentration camps, and the closing of all Czech universities and colleges.

In the Czech Republic, as Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day, it also marks the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. In 1989, a memorial march in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the first International Students Day was organized. Some 15,000 people came out to take part in the solemn march that led from Slavín cemetery at Vyšehrad and was making its way to Václavské náměstí. They were stopped however on Národní třída by members of the State Security Service, who brutally attacked the marchers. This in turn sparked a series of popular demonstrations from November 19 to late December that resulted in the collapse of the Communist government.

There’s a memorial plaque in an arcade on Národní třída. Today it was completely mobbed by people who had come to leave flowers and candles:

I suppose it’s also in keeping with the theme of the day that there is a demonstration, opposing the planned US radar base today. Bring your own candles.

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