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Travel Blog

The Velvet Revolution Revisited

Jessica Litwak

Here is my rather simplistic understanding of this history:

The 1989 Revolution was named “Velvet”  because of its peacefulness .  The revolution overthrew of the communist regime in 1989, and brought back democracy to Czechs after fifty years of Nazi occupation and communist rule. It started off on November 17 as a peaceful officially-sanctioned march in Prague to commemorate Czech student Jan Opletal, who died at the hands of Nazi occupierson the same day in 1939. The students in '89 began to shoutslogans against the communist regime. They walked to the grave of Jan Opletal calling for democratic reforms. They were stopped by police. The students offered flowers to the police shouting rhythmically: “We have bare hands” and singing songs. Then the police suddenly began to beat the young demonstrators with night sticks. Nearly 200 people were injured.  By November 20 an estimated half-million of peaceful protesters took to the streets. On November 28th the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia sensed its defeat and agreed to give up political power. On December 10th, Communist President Gustav Husak appointed the first largely non-communist government since 1948, and resigned. On December 19thVaclav Havel became the first president of a free Czechoslovakia since 1948. With Havel as president, the students ended their strike and the Velvet Revolution ended.

So this year on the 26th year anniversary of the November 17th event known as "student's day" demonstrators planned to meet at the spot of of 1989 events, the current president Milos Zemen stopped the students from gathering and instead many fascist groups came together to protest the arrival of Syrian refugees and to proclaim their conservative agenda. Police kept the students away. So they decided to gather instead onSunday November 22nd.

As I traveled on a tram towards the demonstration more and more people got on, until the tram was overcrowded with people. The streets were also packed with people - young and old- streaming towards the demonstration. This man carried a sign mocking the "small mouth" of the President.

Then a student organizer asked him to cover it. She told him that they wanted to keep the day peaceful so they were asking that all signs and chants be positive - towards change not provoking with insults, and he willingly covered the sign and continued marching.

The demonstrators carried flags and sang songs. There was three minutes of silence for those who suffered and gave their time and lives to the revolution. There were moments of silence for the refugees. There was a call to peaceful action. The speakers said " The last revolution was for shouting and fists in the air. This revolution is about action. Let's bring change to the world with our feet."