Police disperse right-wing extremist march in Slovakia
Slovak police intervened Aug. 7 against a march by the far-right Our Slovakia People's Party (LSNS) in front of the castle in Bratislava. Ten were arrested, including Marián Kotleba, leader of the Slovak Brotherhood, an allied right-wing organization. Authorities allowed the event to take place, but police blocked protesters when they tried to march to the statue of Prince Svatopluk on the castle grounds. Local media reported that one detainee's head was bloodied.
Marchers responded to the police intervention by holding up Slovak national symbols and shouting abuse about homosexuals, liberals and "Zionists," chanting slogans such as "Police state!", "Slovakia for the Slovaks!" and "Go to hell, SAS, Israel!"—a reference to the Freedom and Solidarity (SAS) party, a member of Slovakia's ruling center-right coalition.
SAS leader Richard Sulík, now chair of parliament, is considering a measure to remove a statue of national hero Prince Svatopluk (c. 830-894) from the castle courtyard. Kotleba told the march: "All these liberals, these coveys of Zionists, aren't bothered by Svatopluk—what bothers them is the double cross, which is an ancient Christian symbol and a symbol of the Slovak nation."
An anti-fascist counter-protest was also on the scene. Counter-protester Alojz Hlína was also arrested after he stole the extremists' flag. Some 50 counter-protesters gathered in front of the National Assembly, where activist Robert Mihály of the UM! ("REASON!") initiative read greetings to the crowd from representatives of Amnesty International, People Against Racism and other human rights organizations. Although 150 MPs had been invited to attend the anti-fascist rally, the only one to do so was Ondrej Dostál (Most-HID, a party representing the Hungarian minority).
The event had been intended as a dialogue about the statue question, but this plan was dropped because neither sculptor Ján Kulich nor invited politicians had shown up. "If we were to start talking about the statue it would be a one-sided discussion and I can't identify with such an approach," said Mihály. Unlike the right-wing march, the anti-fascist event had requested and received permission to march to the statue.
Controversy over the statue broke out recently when news site Aktuálně.sk reported that Svatopluk's shield bears a cross with two bars of equal length inside a circle, identical to the fascist symbol used by the Hlinka Guard, Slovakia's World War II-era collaborationist militia. "They started using that symbol in 1938. It intentionally copied the model of the swastika in a circle, the emblem of the NSDAP, just like the emblem of the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross Party, a cross tipped with arrows enclosed in a diamond shape," Ladislav Vrtûl, secretary of the Slovak Interior Ministry's Heraldic Commission, told Aktuáln. "There is no question that the double cross with two bars of equal length fulfilled the function of the Nazi swastika in Slovakia."
The government is in the process of attempting to ban the Slovak Brotherhood, which this spring succeeded in infiltrating and taking over the "Friends of Wine Party" and renaming it "Our Slovakia People's Party." The party fielded candidates in the June parliamentary race but did not meet the 5% vote required to gain seats. The extremists, who wear uniforms reminiscent of the Hlinka Guard, are demanding the establishment of a corporatist state. (Romea, Czech Republic, Aug. 7)