Anti-lockdown protests in Slovakia mark holiday commemorating fight for freedom

Anti-lockdown protests in Slovakia mark holiday commemorating fight for freedom

People in the Eastern European nation of Slovakia on the 17th November celebrated a holiday commemorating their country’s struggles for freedom by protesting the coronavirus lockdowns.

Protestors took to the streets in several cities, including the capital of Bratislava, as well as Trnava, Košice, and Želina, for Slovakia’s annual “Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day.” Despite the coronavirus-linked state of emergency and ban on crowds, the demonstrators numbered in the thousands.

According to the online version of Slovakia’s Pravda newspaper, most demonstrators gathered near government buildings to express their anti-lockdown message. In Prime Minister Igor Matovič’s hometown of Trnava, police blocked off access to his street, allowing only residents to enter. Security services had been tipped off by social media that there would be protests in the area.

In Bratislava, crowds gathered at the main railway station, at Main Square, Freedom Square and Hodžovo Square. Pravda described the crowd at the railway station as composed of balaclava-wearing “football fans” or “ultras” who had been drinking. This crowd shouted slogans about the prime minister and carried banners reading, “Stop dictatorial government,” and, “Follow the laws, follow the Constitution.” They then took their protest outside civil offices in Freedom Square and Hodžovo Square.

In Freedom Square police placed metal barriers between the protestors and government buildings. The football fans threw firecrackers over the barriers and attempted to knock them down as police monitored the scene from horseback.

Afterwards this crowd joined hundreds of other protestors outside Grassalkovich Palace, the residence of the president, in Hodžovo Square. According to Pravda, the protestors sang the national anthem and shouted such sentiments as “Matovič is a virus” and “Freedom, freedom.”

In Košice, a protest of about a thousand people took place. Their demonstration began, Pravda reported, “with a call to fold their face masks.” One elderly protestor told the newspaper that the heavy-handedness of the government was worse than it was in the communist era.

“Even before 1989, there was no such totalitarianism as now,” she said. “I’m 76, and I’ve been through a lot. I came to protest because I don’t like this situation.”

The annual November 17 “Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day” marks both a student protest against the Nazi occupation in 1939 and protests in both Bratislava and the Czech city of Prague in 1989, the beginning of the Velvet Revolution against the communist government.

According to Politico, 95% of the population of Slovakia over the age of 9 has been tested for coronavirus. Over the October 31 – November 1 weekend, 3,625,322 Slovaks were tested, and 38, 359 of them—1.06% —tested positive.