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Czechs mark anniversary of Velvet Revolution amid pandemic

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Czechs on Tuesday evening 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.

People light candles as they gather at the memorial to students who were attacked by riot police in 1989 on Narodni street, marking the 31st anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Prague, Czech Republic. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK

“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.

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.

People light candles as they gather at the memorial to students who were attacked by riot police in 1989 on Narodni street, marking the 31st anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Prague, Czech Republic. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK

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.

People light candles as they gather at the memorial to students who were attacked by riot police in 1989 on Narodni street, marking the 31st anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Prague, Czech Republic. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK

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.

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