Jan Macháček

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Czech Business Weekly

Hypersensitive, yes, but with just cause

08. 08. 2005
Some local commentators consider the fallout here in the wake of the brutal police attack on the outdoor techno-music festival CzechTek to be simple hysteria.

It’s hysteria season, they say: media hysteria because it’s the middle of a sleepy summer and the media need action, and political hysteria because this is the year before parliamentary elections – and the political opposition naturally needs to exploit each and every controversy.

Many also claim that rave parties, free parties, so-called travelers and others living with and within the music world have been pushed out of Western Europe lately, where society no longer tolerates their way of life. Thus, the argument goes, as full EU members, we should also reject these elements.

Another issue has been that democratic capitalism is based on the sanctity of private ownership; and “technopeople” don’t respect private ownership very much. So, let’s get rid of them – in doing so, we are behaving the European way.

There are some elements of truth in the aforementioned opinions. The trouble is that these are just elements of the larger issues and not much else.

It’s true that some (not all) Western European countries, notably France and Britain, have accepted legislation that virtually forbids big raves or free parties. There are also Western European countries where the legislation and practices are much more relaxed in this respect – Switzerland, Spain and Italy, to name just a few.

But even in countries with strict anti-rave legislation, it’s inconceivable that police would brutally attack unarmed young people with more than a thousand fully armored police as we witnessed at the Mlýnec party. In democratic societies, police actions should always be appropriate to the level of danger. Thousands of young dancers don’t require such force.

The fact that parties are forbidden in the United Kingdom has not stopped them from being held, albeit on a smaller scale. According to The Guardian, for instance, this summer dozens of semi-legal parties have been held there on private premises.

In a democracy, it is hard to imagine that society would tolerate repeated, outright and deliberate lies from politicians. But here, Interior Minister František Bublan has lied repeatedly and without event. It seems that he simply repeats whatever the top police officials tell him without bothering to check the facts. First he says there was no deal with the owner of the field, which was not true. Then he says the owner withdrew his permission: also not true. Then he said that the rental contract was only for 50 people – once again, not true.

It’s up to the police to know the boundaries of a field where it plans to send more than a thousand of its troops. This year it was the other way around; police disrespected the private contract and the free will of the owner of the premises, who simply wanted the party.

In countries where there is a great tradition of respect toward private property, one would understand that this respect is the most precious thing to defend. Not here. Small shareholders are being brutally squeezed out of companies, apartment buildings are expropriated from their owners. No one sends thousands of troops there.

Last but not least, this has nothing to do with Europe; this society has the full right to be hypersensitive when the police beat the kids. We experienced it in 1968, 1969, 1988 and 1989 – and we don’t wish to experience it again.

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