About 50,000 people participated in the gathering held on March 9 in SNP Square in Bratislava, making it one of the biggest public gatherings in Slovakia’s history.
“Our whole family got a bullet to the heart,” said Mária Kuciaková, sister of the killed journalist, thanking the participants for coming and showing that they care. “Also, Martinka and Janko care.”
The event was much bigger than last week’s march that paid tribute to investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, who were murdered in their house in Veľká Mača, close to Galanta (Trnava Region). Up to 25,000 people marched the streets of the capital on March 2, with thousands of others attending the gatherings and candle lighting ceremonies in other towns and cities across Slovakia and abroad.
The gathering titled “Let’s stand for decency in Slovakia” had a different character than last week’s march, as this time the organisers also came with some demands. These included a thorough and independent investigation into the murders of Kuciak and Kušnírová with the participation of international teams of investigators, and a new, trustworthy government that will not include people suspected of corruption or links to organised crime.
The demands are just the first step, said one of the organisers, Katarína Nagy Pázmány.
“We should not have to ask for this in a decent country,” she added. “In a decent country, this should be a must.”
Ringing with keys returned to the streets
Much like the March 2 march, the gathering was apolitical. Representatives of civic society, journalists, as well as teachers, medical and cultural associations were invited to the stage to talk to the crowd. They all pointed to the current state of the society, criticising the government for inactivity and calling on people to continue to be active and make sure the case is not forgotten about.
The speeches were accompanied by the ringing of keys, reminiscent of the Velvet Revolution which brought down the communist regime in the country. People were shouting slogans like “We do care” and “Enough of Fico”.
Former Trnava archbishop Robert Bezák said he does not see outraged, but rather resolute people. In his opinion, many politicians should realise that if law and justice retreat to the background, the same will happen to them, as was shown in the past.
“We’ve learnt to be uncaring of all scandals and deeds that have not happened, but the murder of a person should not be lost in time,” Bezák said. “It would be a sign that we are morally broken and that we don’t care at all. But we do care. Janko and Martinka will always remain in our hearts.”
Editor-in-Chief of the Týždeň weekly, Štefan Hríb, reminded in his speech of the recent events, as well as some facts mentioned in Kuciak’s last story.
“Much has been said, but very little has been done,” he said, stressing that rising GDP or free trains are not important for the country, but rather justice.
The protest has been supported by several universities in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, teachers, school associations, artists and non-governmental organisations. 21 universities cancelled afternoon lectures to allow students and employees to attend the protests.
The safety of the participants was supervised by the police officers. No serious incident occurred.
The gatherings also took place in 48 other towns and cities in Slovakia and 17 places abroad (see the list here).