PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czechs on Tuesday marked more than three decades since the Velvet Revolution peacefully toppled communist rule with scaled-back gatherings, virtual candle lighting and online concerts as coronavirus lockdown rules limited events this year.
The Czech Republic has posted infection and death rates among the highest in Europe during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The day is important for people so most are commemorating the Velvet Revolution from their homes,” said Lukas Cerny, an organiser with the “Diky, ze muzem” (Thanks that We Can) group.
“It’s important we didn’t cancel everything because I think it is even more important to remind people of freedom and democracy,” he said.
“We can’t enjoy them completely now because of the pandemic but if everyone is responsible it will quicken the process to get back to our lives.”
People watching online could light a candle via the group’s volunteers at a memorial in central Prague, where police beat up student protesters in 1989, a crackdown that led to wider rallies against communist rule and its demise.
People could also light candles spaced-out on Prague’s Wenceslas Square.
Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered on Wenceslas Square to protest coronavirus lockdown measures that have shut shops, restaurants and other public venues, before marching through the city.
Elsewhere, Czech singer Aneta Langerova performed “A Prayer for Marta” – an unofficial anthem of the Velvet Revolution – on the National Theatre’s balcony, which could be heard on television and radio stations across the country.
A regular concert on Wenceslas Square was taking place via streaming, without an audience. Other events were moved, cancelled or had limited crowds.
The Czech Republic, a country of 10.7 million, has seen its coronavirus infections decline in recent days. It reported 5,406 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the lowest weekday tally in a month. In total, 465,523 infections have been reported since March while deaths have surged this month to 6,416.
(Reporting by Jason Hovet and David W. Cerny; Editing by Janet Lawrence)