The fall of communism was preceded by a DRASTIC police crackdown on a student demonstration

Illustrative image for the article The Fall of Communism was preceded by a DRASTIC police intervention against a student demonstration

Source: TASR

November 17 became a national holiday called the Day of the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy. Likewise, November 17 has been Student Day since World War II.

November 17 became a national holiday called the Day of the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy. Likewise, November 17 has been Student Day since World War II.

Illustrative image for the article The Fall of Communism was preceded by a DRASTIC police intervention against a student demonstration

Source: TASR

A drastic police crackdown on a permitted student demonstration in Prague on November 17, 1989, led to the fall of the communist system in what was then Czechoslovakia for several weeks.

This non-violent change, also known as the Gentle Revolution (or Velvet Revolution), is the reason why November 17 became a national holiday called Freedom and Democracy Day. Likewise, November 17 has been Student Day since World War II.

International Student Day

A demonstration of students on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of the founding of the Czechoslovak Republic took place in Prague on October 28, 1939. At the same time, it became a protest against the Nazi occupation of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. Václav Sedláček, a bakery apprentice, was killed at the meeting and Jan Opletal, a medical student, was seriously injured.

At that time, the 24-year-old university student Opletal was injured on November 11, and on November 17, the Reich Protector ordered the closure of Czech universities and boarding schools. This day has been commemorated by the world public since 1941 as International Student Day.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of these events, a permitted student event took place in Prague on November 17, 1989. However, it was already clear from the text of the invitation that it would not only be a reverential memory of Jan Opletal, but that they wanted to “actively subscribe to the ideals of freedom and truth.”

They beat and arrested protesters

Due to this – and also to previous demonstrations in Prague – the security apparatus was prepared very thoroughly on November 17, 1989. The meeting began on Friday, November 17, 1989, in the afternoon on the campus of Charles University in Albertov. The students set off in the direction of Vyšehrad along a pre-authorized route.

After 6 pm, a short reverential act was held at the grave of Karel Hynek Mácha in Vyšehrad. However, in a tense atmosphere, the protesters went to the city center unplanned. They held lighted candles and chanted slogans for freedom.

The riot force closed the National Avenue around eight in the evening and a police intervention began. Members of the Special Purpose Section, the so-called Red berets beat and arrested protesters. Both cordons pushed the crowd more and more. 600 people were injured during the operation, seven of whom were seriously injured.

Mass demonstrations

Information about the police intervention spread quickly, including the news that Martin Šmíd, a student, had been killed. However, this turned out to be untrue. Already during the weekend of November 18 and 19, 1989, the Civic Forum (OF) and the Public Against Violence (VPN) were established in Prague. Students and actors went on strike.

Initially, they mainly asked for a police intervention. Over time, demands have been made for the Communist Party to relinquish its monopoly on power. Mass demonstrations took place in the squares of Bratislava and Prague, which resulted in a two-hour general strike on November 27, 1989 – three-quarters of the population took part.

Fall of communism

The Communist Party lost its leading position on November 29, when the federal parliament approved changes to the Constitution of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. After the first unsuccessful attempt on December 3, President Gustav Husák appointed a government of national understanding on Sunday, December 10, headed by Prime Minister Marián Čalf and a representation of non-communists.

At the end of the year, on December 29, 1989, deputies unanimously elected Václav Havel president. At the same time, non-attached deputies were co-opted into parliament. Free elections were held on June 8 and 9, 1990.

Source: totalita.cz

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