Streets to come alive on Nov. 17 for Festival svobody

A diverse celebration will occur for Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day

For the past few years now Nov. 17 has been Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day commemorating both the student demonstration against Nazi occupation in 1939, and the demonstration in 1989 that started the Velvet Revolution. It is the last official holiday of the year (as in most offices and stores will be closed) until the three days off during Christmas.

There will be several public celebrations at Wenceslas Square, Národní třída, Albertov and Hradčanské náměstí. There will be a satirical parade starting at Kampa, and an award ceremony at the National Theater will be televised as well. The events are organized by a number of groups, but all of them are under the single banner Festival svobody, or Freedom Festival.

The biggest single event is a concert called Koncert pro budoucnost (Concert for the Future) at Wenceslas Square, starting at 4 pm. It will have live bands and speakers until about 10 pm. Local favorite Tonya Graves will perform sometime between 6 pm and 7 pm. At 7:30 pm there will be a citizens' wake-up call (Občanský budíček), involving setting off alarm clocks. That will be followed by headline acts include Laura a její tygři and Michal Hrůza a kapela Hrůzy. The concert closes with N.O.H.A. at 9:15 pm.

Many key events of the Velvet Revolution took place on Národní třída, and the street will have events starting at noon. New this year, the memorial plaque featuring raised hands has been moved from inside an arcade where it posed a fire hazard to the outside of the same building, where the sidewalk has just been widened. There will be music spaces, theater for children, memorial actions, an exhibition, remembrance of Václav Havel and various other events. Mass will be at Kostel sv. Voršily at 5 pm for those who are inclined.

The Díky, že můžem – Rock Cafe stage starts at noon and will be feature Sto zvířat at 5:15 pm, followed by Ivan Král at 6:30 pm and Mydy Rabycad at 8 pm.

The ever popular Mazací tramvaj (lubricating tram) will have musical acts starting at 12:30 and work up to synth noise pop group Killiekrankie at 8:45 pm. There will also be street troubadours, with drumming groups and Balkan brass bands.

Excerpts from playwright and former president Václav Havel's work will be read from noon to 8 pm at the plaza behind the National Theater now called náměstí Václava Havla. There will be an afterparty at Rock Cafe with Sunflower Caravan and Ghost of You.

At Albertov, another place associated with the events of 1989, there will be commemorative ceremonies at 9 am and 10 am, followed by presentations and speeches until 3 pm. Student bands will play from 3 pm to almost 10 pm.

At Hradčanské náměstí there will be an event organized by Proti projevům nenávisti called Nezapomínáme (We Will Not Forget) with a musical introduction starting at 1:45, followed by speeches until 4 pm, and a march in the direction of Mánes Bridge to Wenceslas Square to join up with the Koncert pro budoucnost. Proti projevům nenávisti protests against hate speech and tries to promote inclusion. Their event is aimed at protesting the political views coming from the Czech president's office.

The fifth annual satirical masked parade will start at Kampa at 2:30 pm and works its way across Charles Bridge and over to Národní třída before ending at the horse statue at Wenceslas Square at 6 pm.

The event is called Sametové posvícení (Velvet Carnival). It is meant to offer an opportunity for people to make a statement about societal issues in a creative manner.

Czech Television 2 will broadcast the Ceny Paměti národa (Memory of the Nation Prize) live from the National Theatre at 8 pm. Four people who made a stand for justice or human rights will be honored.

Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day is most closely associated with the Velvet Revolution, which began Nov. 17 in 1989, but it also refers to a student protest from 1939. The earlier protest against the German occupation began Oct. 28, 1939, and led to arrests of students and deportations to concentration camps. A student named Jan Opletal was shot, and died of his wounds on Nov. 11. His funeral in Nov. 15 turned into a massive demonstration. Nine leaders of the anti-Nazi movement were executed Nov. 17, 1939.

Students marked the 50th anniversary of that event with rallies and marches Nov. 17, 1989. Police broke up the protest and some students were beaten. This led to 11 days of widespread protests and strikes. People filled Wenceslas Square and protested by jangling their keys. The communist government finally gave in and agreed to free elections, which resulted in the election of dissident and playwright Václav Havel.

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