US embassy cable - 89PRAGUE8144

DEMONSTRATIONS IN PRAGUE AND OTHER CZECHOSLOVAK CITIES NOVEMBER 20

Identifier: 89PRAGUE8144
Wikileaks: View 89PRAGUE8144 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Prague
Created: 1989-11-21 15:20:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PHUM CSCE PGOV PREL CZ
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 211520Z NOV 89
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1793
USIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7736
INFO EASTERN EUROPEAN POSTS
AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PRAGUE 08144 
 
BRUSSELS FOR USEC - AMBASSADOR NILES 
DEPT PASS TO ERIKA SCHLAGER CSCE COMMISSION 
USIA FOR EU (OLASON, PENDERGRAST, JORIA); INFO DD 
(KNOPP), C(PISTOR) 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  PHUM, CSCE, PGOV, PREL, CZ 
SUBJECT: DEMONSTRATIONS IN PRAGUE AND OTHER 
         CZECHOSLOVAK CITIES NOVEMBER 20 
 
1.  (C)  SUMMARY AND COMMENT:  THE PRAGUE 
DEMONSTRATION OF NOVEMBER 20, AT MORE THAN 150,000 
PEOPLE, WAS THE LARGEST YET.  POLICE MADE NO ATTEMPT 
TO INTERVENE OTHER THAN TO CLOSE BRIDGES TO PREVENT 
THE CROWD FROM MARCHING ON PRAGUE CASTLE. 
DEMONSTRATIONS ALSO OCCURRED IN SEVERAL OTHER 
CITIES, INCLUDING BRATISLAVA.  MEDIA COVERAGE 
REMAINED MIXED, WITH "RUDE PRAVO" HOSTILE, 
"SVOBODNE SLOVO" FAVORABLE AND TELEVISION 
COVERAGE POSITIVE -- OR AT LEAST OBJECTIVE. 
WHETHER AS A THOUGHTOUT PLAN OR THE RESULT OF 
LEADERSHIP DISAGREEMENTS, THE REGIME SEEMS TO 
HAVE ADOPTED A CARROT AND STICK STRATEGY, WITH 
SOME CONCILIATORY GESTURES AND A PROMISE OF AT 
LEAST ECONOMIC IMPROVEMENTS COMBINED WITH A 
NONE-TOO-VEILED WARNING OF SUPPRESSION IF THINGS 
REMAIN OUT OF HAND.  IT ALSO IS CONTINUING ITS 
EFFORTS TO TAINT DEMONSTRATORS WITH CHARGES OF 
WORKING FOR FOREIGN INTERESTS.  IT CANNOT HAVE 
BEEN PLEASED, HOWEVER, BY A SOVIET PRESS SPOKESMAN 
STATEMENT THAT DESCRIBED THE DEMONSTRATIONS AS 
PART OF THE PROCESS OF DEMOCRATIZATION IN EASTERN 
EUROPE.  IN ANOTHER PRESUMABLE REACTION TO THE 
DEMONSTRATIONS, GDR LEADER KRENZ HAS CANCELLED 
HIS VISIT TO PRAGUE.  (NOTE:  AS THIS CABLE GOES 
TO PRESS, CZECH REPUBLIC GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN 
KASIK ANNOUNCED THAT AN INVESTIGATION WOULD BE 
OPENED ON THE EVENTS OF NOVEMBER 17 AND WHETHER 
THE POLICE USED DISPROPORTIONATE FORCE.  END NOTE.) 
END SUMMARY AND COMMENT. 
 
2.  (U)  THE DEMONSTRATION DURING THE LATE AFTERNOON 
AND EVENING YESTERDAY, NOVEMBER 20, WAS THE LARGEST YET. 
THE COMMUNIST PARTY DAILY "RUDE 
PRAVO" ADMITTED TO 150,000 PEOPLE, BUT EMBOFFS PRESENT 
THOUGHT IT CLOSER TO 200,000.  THE CROWD GATHERED 
SLOWLY DURING THE COURSE OF THE DAY AND DISPERSED 
GRADUALLY IN THE EVENING.  A LAST GROUP OF SEVERAL 
THOUSAND STOOD OUTSIDE CZECHOSLOVAK RADIO AT ABOUT 
10:00 P.M. AND THEN WENT HOME.  POLICE MADE NO EFFORT 
TO INTERFERE WITH THE CROWD AS LONG AS IT STAYED WITHIN 
THE "GOLDEN CROSS" AREA  OF WENCESLAS SQUARE AND 
NATIONAL AVENUE.  SECURITY FORCES DID CLOSE OFF THE 
BRIDGES GOING ACROSS THE RIVER TO PREVENT THE 
DEMONSTRATORS FROM TRYING TO MARCH ON PRAGUE CASTLE. 
 
3.  (U)  THE DEMONSTRATION APPEARED TO BE UNORGANIZED AND 
LEADERLESS, AND WHILE THERE HAS BEEN NO CALL FOR A 
GATHERING TODAY ONE IS GENERALLY EXPECTED.  OTHER 
DEMONSTRATIONS OCCURRED THE SAME DAY OUTSIDE PRAGUE. 
THESE INCLUDED BRNO (AN ESTIMATED 30,000 IN THE 
CENTRAL SQUARE), OLOMOUC (6,000), TEPLICE (1,000), 
LIBEREC AND OSTRAVA.  THEATERS AND SCHOOLS WERE CLOSED 
IN CESKE BUDEJOVICE, AS WELL AS PRAGUE -- WHERE 
PERFORMERS TALKED POLITICS WITH ANY AUDIENCE MEMBERS WHO 
SHOWED UP.  DEMONSTRATIONS ALSO TOOK PLACE IN 
BRATISLAVA, BUT WE HAVE HEARD OF NO OTHERS IN SLOVAKIA. 
DEMONSTRATORS IN MANY OF THESE PLACES VOICED THE 
ANTI-GOVERNMENT AND ANTI-COMMUNIST DEMANDS HEARD IN 
PRAGUE, INCLUDING SUCH SLOGANS AS "JAKES IN THE 
WASTEBASKET."  TELEVISION NEWS REPORTS SAID THAT 
THERE WERE NO SIGNS OF DISTURBANCES IN OTHER PRINCIPAL 
CITIES SUCH AS PLZEN AND HRADEC KRALOVE, AND 
CONDEMNED THE NOVEMBER 17 POLICE BRUTALITY. 
 
REGIME REACTION 
--------------- 
 
4.  (C) THE ONLY REGIME FIGURE TO ADDRESS THE 
DEMONSTRATORS DIRECTLY IN WENCESLAS SQUARE WAS VASIL 
MOHORITA, CHAIRMAN OF THE SOCIALIST UNION OF YOUTH 
(SSM).  HE MADE SEVERAL POINTS THAT HAD BEEN INCLUDED IN 
HIS ORGANIZATION'S STATEMENT PUBLISHED IN "MLADA FRONTA" 
THE DAY BEFORE (PRAGUE 8106), IN WHICH HE SUPPORTED 
THE STUDENTS, AND HE SAID THAT HE WOULD OPPOSE ANY 
PROSECUTION OF STUDENTS ARRESTED ON NOVEMBER 17 AND 
WOULD RESIGN IF THERE WERE PROSECUTIONS.  (COMMENT: 
WE REMAIN SUSPICIOUS THAT MOHORITA'S COMMENTS ARE 
MORE AN EFFORT TO COOPT THE STUDENTS THAN TO SUPPORT 
THEIR DEMANDS.  END COMMENT.) 
 
5.  (U)  THE CPCZ PRESIDIUM HELD A SPECIAL SESSION 
DURING THE AFTERNOON OF NOVEMBER 20 TO TRY TO DEAL 
WITH THE SITUATION  AND WITH "EXPRESSIONS OF INTENSE 
CONCERN" BY VARIOUS PARTY AND NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS. 
IT REJECTED STUDENT APPEALS FOR A GENERAL STRIKE 
NOVEMBER 27 AND CALLED ON STUDENTS TO RETURN TO CLASS 
AND ARTISTS TO RETURN TO WORK.  IT ALSO REPORTEDLY 
DISCUSSED PRACTICAL STEPS FOR RESTORING ORDER, AND 
SUPPORTED A JOINT STATEMENT RELEASED BY THE FEDERAL, 
CZECH AND SLOVAK GOVERNMENTS. 
 
6.  (C)  THIS STATEMENT, ENTITLED "DIALOGUE YES, 
CONFRONTATION NO," INSISTED THAT THE GOVERNMENT 
HAD BEEN STRIVING FOR SOCIAL RESTRUCTURING AND 
DEMOCRACY AS WELL AS IMPROVING LIVING STANDARDS, 
GOING INTO SOME DETAIL ON THE LATTER POINT.  IT 
EXPRESSED CONCERN ABOUT THE CURRENT DISTURBANCES 
SINCE THESE "ONLY PLAY INTO THE HANDS OF THOSE WHO 
OPPOSE RESTRUCTURING."  THE GOVERNMENT WANTED A 
DIALOGUE AND A POLITICAL SOLUTION OF EXISTING 
PROBLEMS, BUT SUCH A SOLUTION "CANNOT BE FOUND IN 
AN ATMOSPHERE OF EMOTION AND ANTI-SOCIALIST 
MANIFESTATIONS."  WHILE THE GOVERNMENT "DID NOT WANT 
TO GO VIA A PATH OF CONFRONTATION WHICH THE ANTI- 
SOCIALIST ELEMENTS ARE TRYING TO FORCE ON US," IT COULD 
NOT AGREE TO THE VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION AND THE 
LAWS OF THE LAND OR "WATCH HELPLESSLY ACTIVITIES OF 
THOSE GROUPS WHICH ACT AT VARIANCE WITH THE 
CZECHOSLOVAK LEGAL ORDER AND ARE INCITED FROM ABROAD." 
THUS ALL THREE GOVERNMENTS SUPPORTED THE MEASURES 
WHICH HAD BEEN TAKEN TO KEEP ORDER.  (COMMENT: 
PRESUMABLY A REFERENCE TO SUPPRESSION OF THE NOVEMBER 17 
DEMONSTRATIONS AND A WARNING THAT SUCH ACTION COULD 
COME AGAIN IF NEEDED.  END COMMENT.) 
 
7.  (U) PRAGUE CITY PARTY CHAIRMAN MIROSLAV STEPAN, 
MEANWHILE, MET WITH CPCZ PARTY WORKERS OF THE MAJOR 
PRAGUE ENTERPRISES NOVEMBER 20 TO RALLY SUPPORT IN 
A PROBABLE EFFORT TO HEAD OFF A NOVEMBER 27 GENERAL 
STRIKE.  HE STRESSED THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNISTS 
NOT BEING NEUTRAL IN THE CURRENT EVENTS AND TO OPPOSE 
THOSE FORCES WHO WANTED ALL OR NOTHING (I.E., WHO WERE 
NOT INTERESTED IN DIALOGUE OR COMPROMISE) AND STAND 
FIRM AGAINST EVENTS NOW GOING ON IN THE CITY. 
 
8.  (U) IN A REACTION FROM THE SOVIET UNION, SOVIET 
PRESS SPOKESMAN GERASIMOV WAS SHOWN ON CZECHOSLOVAK 
TELEVISION SAYING THAT THE DEMONSTRATIONS WERE AN 
INTERNAL MATTER FOR CZECHOSLOVAKIA, BUT THAT THEY 
REPRESENTED A PART OF THE CURRENT PROCESS OF 
DEMOCRATIZATION IN EASTERN EUROPE.  PRESUMABLY IN 
RESPONSE TO EVENTS IN PRAGUE, GRD LEADER KRENZ 
CANCELLED HIS NOVEMBER 21 VISIT TO PRAGUE AFTER 
MUTUAL AGREEMENT WITH THE GOC. 
 
MEDIA REACTION 
-------------- 
 
9.  (U) "RUDE PRAVO" IS STICKING TO A LINE CRITICAL OF 
THE DEMONSTRATORS, PUBLISHING INTERVIEWS WITH WORKERS 
AND PARTY MEMBERS HOSTILE TO THE DEMONSTRATIONS AND 
SUGGESTING THAT SOME OF THE ORGANIZERS OF THE 
DEMONSTRATIONS ARE NOT STUDENTS.  IT LIMITED ITS 
COVERAGE OF THE DEMONSTRATIONS TO PRAGUE AND BRNO, 
WITHOUT MENTIONING THAT ANY HAD TAKEN PLACE 
ELSEWHERE. 
 
10.  (U) THE SOCIALIST PARTY PAPER "SVOBODNE SLOVO," 
HOWEVER, REMAINED GENERALLY SYMPATHETIC TO THE 
DEMONSTRATIONS (PRAGUE 8106).  IT ALSO REPORTED 
THAT 400 JOURNALISTS HAD MET NOVEMBER 20 AND 
REJECTED THE POLICE ACTIONS ON NOVEMBER 17, AS WELL AS 
MAINTENANCE OF THE LEADING ROLE OF THE COMMUNIST 
PARTY.  THE JOURNALISTS SUPPORTED THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED 
INDEPENDENT CIVIC FORUM (PRAGUE 8108) AND CALLED UPON 
THE LEADERSHIP OF THE CZECH JOURNALISTS' UNION TO DO 
THE SAME OR RESIGN.  THEY ALSO CREATED AN OFFICIAL 
GROUP OF INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS. 
 
11.  (U) CZECHOSLOVAK TELEVISION COVERAGE WAS GENERALLY 
POSITIVE, OR AT LEAST OBJECTIVE.  IN ADDITION TO 
COVERAGE OF THE DEMONSTRATIONS IN PRAGUE AND OTHER 
CITIES, THERE WERE INTERVIEWS WITH THE STUDENTS AND 
OTHER DEMONSTRATORS, GIVING THEM A CHANCE TO PRESENT 
THEIR VIEWS TO A NATIONAL AUDIENCE. 
 
BLACK 

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