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Anti-NATO protests draw radical crowd

Waving signs proclaiming "Close our airspace" and "We don't want a puppet government," about 100 anti-NATO protesters took to the streets of Bratislava's old town April 12 to amplify their disagreements with the alliances' strikes in Yugoslavia and inveigh against the Slovak government of Mikuláš Dzurinda for its support of the strikes.
The protests, which have been held for more than two weeks every day at 5 p.m., bring together a diverse group of Slovak right-wing radicals including former communists, subscribers to Zmena, a radical Nationalist weekly, and skinheads. Last Monday, the group began their march on Hievzdoslavovo námestie. in front of the American embassy, where they blew whistles and chanted "Hands off Yugoslavia" with the help of three organizers with loudspeakers. They then marched, accompanied by a group of Slovak police, through the Old Town, repeating their calls in front of the British and French embassies.


District Communist Party leader František Kasanický leads protestors in an anti-NATO chant outside of the American Embassy.
photo: Ján Svrček

Waving signs proclaiming "Close our airspace" and "We don't want a puppet government," about 100 anti-NATO protesters took to the streets of Bratislava's old town April 12 to amplify their disagreements with the alliances' strikes in Yugoslavia and inveigh against the Slovak government of Mikuláš Dzurinda for its support of the strikes.

The protests, which have been held for more than two weeks every day at 5 p.m., bring together a diverse group of Slovak right-wing radicals including former communists, subscribers to Zmena, a radical Nationalist weekly, and skinheads. Last Monday, the group began their march on Hievzdoslavovo námestie. in front of the American embassy, where they blew whistles and chanted "Hands off Yugoslavia" with the help of three organizers with loudspeakers. They then marched, accompanied by a group of Slovak police, through the Old Town, repeating their calls in front of the British and French embassies.

"They (the USA) are trying to solve problems which have been around for centuries. They must stop murdering," said Eduard, a former teacher of natural science who also held up a sign which pictured a target. "Russia must give the Serbs moral support."

"This is too much hard aggression which doesn't solve anything. They must sit down and talk," added Ján, a private entrepreneur who marched with his two young children and also would not give his last name.

Others in the protest said they were against fighting in any form. "I am against any aggression, that's why I am here. Look, I don't want any bombs over Slovakia. America must stay at home and not get involved in the problems of Europe and Yugoslavia. I don't want any war here in Slovakia," said a 50-year-old woman who asked that her name be withheld.

Leading many of the chants through a megaphone was organiser František Kasanický, 60, who said he was the first vice chairman of the District Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) in Bratislava.

"We are all here, SNS, HZDS supporters, volunteers from the KSS, Matica Slovenská (Slovak National Cultural Institution), God believers and non-believers," he said.

The group plans to continue their daily marches until the bombings stop. They are also organising a petition drive to fight for Slovakia to clear its air space.

"We will demonstrate every day either in front of the American Embassy or Parliament for as many weeks as is necessary. There must be increased defence and security from international terrorism," Kasanický said.

As the group marched, they caught the attention of many walking through the Old Town, some of who approved of the bombing and others who disagreed but said the demonstration had too radical a flavour for their liking. They were divided ias to whether or not they felt the majority of Slovaks supported the bombing, and as there have been few polls published on the subject, said they had been left to guess the country's mood.

Milan Vajda, the advisor to Old Town district council mayor Andrej Dúrkovský, shook his head as he listened to the shouted speeches of the organizers.

"War is always bad, but the bombing is most probably necessary," he said. He added he felt it was important to support NATO decisions, saying "Part of reform is support of NATO."

"In Slovakia, the people who are more extreme are those who want to express their attitudes, while the majority is silent. I believe the silent ones are those who agree (with the bombing)," he said.

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