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Good Friday protest rally draws few supporters

In response to the break-in and subsequent arrest of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party leader and three time former prime minister Vladmír Mečiar on April 20, a protest rally was held the following day at Námestie Slobody in Bratislava. A crowd of approximately 2,000 predominantly elderly citizens gathered to voice their support for their accused leader, and to vent their anger over the arrest and the tactics used to bring Mečiar into custody.
HZDS Secretary General Jozef Grapa scheduled the rally would for a day after the arrest in order to give party supporters - around 30% of the voting public - enough time to travel to Bratislava. His planning was foiled, however, when only a small fraction of HZDS backers showed up.


The crowd of 2,000 on Bratislava's Námestie Slobody (Freedom Square) voiced their support for Mečiar.
photo: TASR

In response to the break-in and subsequent arrest of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party leader and three time former prime minister Vladmír Mečiar on April 20, a protest rally was held the following day at Námestie Slobody in Bratislava. A crowd of approximately 2,000 predominantly elderly citizens gathered to voice their support for their accused leader, and to vent their anger over the arrest and the tactics used to bring Mečiar into custody.

HZDS Secretary General Jozef Grapa scheduled the rally would for a day after the arrest in order to give party supporters - around 30% of the voting public - enough time to travel to Bratislava. His planning was foiled, however, when only a small fraction of HZDS backers showed up.

A number Slovak flags scattered among the throng fluttered in the early afternoon breeze, making a statement of national pride; stronger sentiments were expressed by other protestors displaying banners stating "Nech žije [Long live] Mečiar," "Odstúpte [Step down] Dzurinda," and "Policajný štát pre Dzurindu raj [Police state for Dzurinda is paradise]."

HZDS deputy Dušan Jariabek opened the demonstration shortly after the noon hour, as members of the audience hollered their support for Mečiar, and chastised the Dzurinda government with shouts of "Hanba [shame]!".

"Ladies and gentlemen, free people of an unfree country, the arrest of Vladimír Mečiar represents the biggest of Christian defeats," Jariabek said to a chorus of cheers. "This was an act of state terrorism, of arrogance and abuse of governmental power that doesn't belong in the civilized world. These were the methods of barbarians who don't know how to use a door handle, so they barge in with explosives."

HZDS Vice Chairman Miroslav Maxon followed, as the crowd became more and more vocal in their support. "Yesterday, with the explosion into Vladimír Mečiar's house, democracy exploded in Slovakia. Thieves like Dzurinda and [Interior Minister Ladislav] Pittner have stolen democracy from us," he said.

Chairwoman of the Slovak National Party (SNS) Anna Malíková put the event on a biblical level when she took to the microphone. "Yesterday, the government buried freedom and the law in Slovakia just like those who crucified Jesus 2000 years ago hoping that his ideas would be buried with him," she said.

Malíková's sentiments were not the only biblical references made, as people in the crowd voiced their emotions over the previous day's events. "This was even worse than when the Jews crucified Jesus," said Hedvika Mučková, a 72 year-old pensioner from Bratislava. "The government cheats on the Slovak nation and doesn't care about the country. We worked hard all of our lives, paid our taxes and today we have nothing. Blowing down his door was worse than what the Gestapo used to do."

Calling the government a bunch of thieves, Mučková said those in power did not care about their fellow countrymen. Early elections are a must, she said, and the current government should be "stepped on and thrown into the Danube."

Over the loudspeakers, Malíková's speech continued with strong statements. "The government is the best organized criminal group in Slovakia," she said. "It happened to Mečiar yesterday, tomorrow it could happen to me or you."

Less representative of the age group on hand was Miro, a 17 year-old student from Trenčín, who stood tall waving the Slovak flag on the perimeter of the thin crowd. "I came to protest against this violent act. It was not appropriate and it is not true what they accuse Mečiar of," he said.

Additional reporting by Martina Pisárová

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