Czechs mark 1989 Velvet Revolution anniversary with protests

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 17, 2016 12:06 PM

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czechs commemorated the 1989 Velvet Revolution on Thursday with thousands celebrating the peaceful end of Communist rule 27 years ago alongside protests against President Milos Zeman.

Prague counted about 30 different events in the Czech capital, a higher number than in past years and including rallies for and against Zeman and also demonstrations by far-right groups.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and other leading politicians laid flowers at a memorial to student demonstrations that ended in police violence on Nov. 17, 1989.

The central European country marks the day as the start of a series of mass protests in the final weeks of 1989 that led to Communist rulers stepping down and the first free elections in then-Czechoslovakia.

Zeman was absent from rallies this year. Two years ago, protesters threw eggs at him and last year he faced criticism for speaking alongside far-right activists.

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The outspoken president has become a growing target of protests and has often railed against "elites" critical of his leadership, his anti-immigrant rhetoric and warm views towards Russia and China.

However, the 72-year-old president remains broadly popular, retaining strong support in regions outside the capital.

(Reporting by Jiri Skacel; Writing by Jason Hovet; editing by Mark Heinrich)