Czech police said they used tear gas and water cannons at a violent demonstration rally held Sunday in Prague against government measures put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Thousands of protesters, including “radical” football fans, according to police, gathered in the capital’s historic old town square to demand the resignation of Health Minister Roman Prymula, the mastermind behind the restrictions.
The meeting became tough as protesters and police clashed after authorities began dispersing the crowd, saying the presence far exceeded the current limit.
“The participants attacked the police for no reason,” Prague Police Chief Tomas Lerch told reporters, while another officer described them as “radical fans”.
“We used a water cannon, tear gas and petards,” Lerch said, adding that nearly 20 officers were wounded.
Prague’s emergency services tweeted that it had treated nine people and driven four to the hospital “mainly with head injuries, cuts, intoxication and difficulty breathing after tear gas poisoning.”
Police said they detained about 50 people before the demonstration and seized fireworks, brass bones, telescopic batoner and firearms.
PHOTO Hundreds of protesters, mostly hooligans, clash with police during a protest against the Czech government’s new measures in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic on the Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, on October 18, 2020. @epaphotos pic.twitter .com / EOToiPEUG5
– Martin Divisek (@martin_divisek) October 18, 2020
The Czech Republic is worst placed in the EU ranking of new cases of coronavirus and deaths per capita. 100,000 inhabitants.
On Friday, the EU member of 10.7 million people set a new record in daily infections with 11,105 cases.
As of Sunday, it has registered more than 170,000 confirmed cases and over 1,400 deaths.
The rally was organized by the HON civic association, although the football supporters made up a significant percentage of the crowd.
“The government is automatically announcing the measures without coherence and most of us have no chance of coping with them,” reads a statement signed by fans from 13 out of 18 Czech top football clubs.
Waving a Czech flag, the protester Vlasta Ciencialova, who came to Prague east of the country, did not mince her words about Prymula.
“He admits no resistance. How dare he? Who does he think he is talking to? We are not sheep, we are normal people,” she told AFP.
Prymula himself slammed the protesters for “despising the work of medical workers.”
“I suspect we are getting hundreds of new infections as a result,” he added.