It’s another majdan supported by America. The people are being paid by George Soros. It won’t bring any changes, it’s pointless. It’s just more manipulation, an effort of the opposition to gain the upper hand. It’s a naive attempt of children to impact the political scene. There are going to be attacks by terrorists…
None of these, and many more false claims was enough to discourage thousands of people from taking part in the march for a better future in Slovakia, the March against corruption. The mob that gathered on the SNP square in Bratislava on April 18th was immense. Reportedly consisting of more than five thousand people, it flooded the whole square and filled it with disgust, dissatisfaction, and anger, but also with cheers of hope.
The total scope of the event surpassed everyone’s expectations. What was originally meant to be a small protest organized by high school students, ended up being a massive gathering supported by thousands of volunteers, and publicly recognized people, including artists and those who had experienced the gruesome impact of corruption on their own skin. It received the attention of all major media outlets.
But then, should anyone be really surprised? The arrogance with which criminal cases in the field of politics are being dismissed, the arrogance with which politicians lie to our eyes with a kind, condescending smile on their lips, the arrogance of the people who represent each and every one of us, can not be ignored any longer. Trust in the leaders of a country is one of the founding pillars of a functioning state. Yet the people assuming the highest posts in the Slovak government are abusing their position for personal benefits and when too many are involved, only Slovakia’s citizens can stop the corruption.
Cameramen, banners, people in costumes mocking political figures or expressing national pride, policemen, but mainly expectations. That was the beginning of the march. The mass began moving towards SNP square, propelled by the chants rising at the head of the crowd, rolling like a wave all the way back, to the last rows of the seemingly endless line of people. You could hear slogans like “Enough of Fico!”, “To jail with Fico!”, “Fico, shame on you!”, “Resign!”, “We DO care!”, “This is our home!”, “We won’t stay quiet!” arising ahead of you, then slowly growing louder and louder, until people all around were joining in the excitement.
Finally the mob reached the SNP square and gathered in front of a stage prepared for the occasion. The whole
event ran smoothly, save for occasional troubles with microphones. The opening was provided by a couple of hosts who introduced the individual speakers.
The first talk was given by the initiators and organizers of the event – Dávid Straka and Karolína Farská. Despite being mere high school students, they stood in front of thousands of people and spoke for all. They spoke about injustice, they spoke about scandals, but also about gratitude towards our parents, responsibility and hope for change. Their speeches were very emotional, but down to earth, without unnecessary aggression and revolutionary tendencies. They made sure that this was a peaceful event.
The program was accompanied by Slovak performers, for instance Vec, Para or Tono S, who also came to support the March against corruption. Apart from them, the actors Maroš Kramár and Ján Greššo came to have their say.
But there were also those, who are not recognized among the general public, at least not because of their work. Among them was for instance Zuzana Hlávková, who had tried to shed light on fraud committed by Slovak representatives in the European council, which had cost her her career as a diplomat. This young, inconspicuous woman is the symbol of courage among the new generation.
Another such guest was Jozef Žačko, a former police officer who had unsuccessfully tried to bring to attention the
suspicious policies at his work place. This cost him his job and countless nuisances with the control office. “They came to my office, but instead of investigating the people I warned them about, they started asking me questions and then it all started,” he says.
Anna Remiášová, the mother of a boy whose murder remains unsolved because of amnesties granted by Vladimír
Mečiar in 1990s, gave a very sentimental speech , as can be expected from someone who has suffered the loss of a child. “Do not let anyone take away your right to life!” she encouraged the students. “Thank you!” the crowd chanted in return.
The March against corruption was a natural outcome of the dissatisfaction among citizens and after the teacher strike and the strike of doctors, there are probably more protests to come. The march did not end on SNP square, however. In a memorandum presented at the Government Office of Slovak Republic the organizers of the march demanded the resignation of Róbert Kaliňák from the post of Home Secretary of the Slovak Republic, Dušan Kováčik from the post of special prosecutor and Tibor Gašpar from the post of the President of the police forces of the Slovak Republic. Furthermore, the organizers called for a thorough investigation of the Gorilla and Bašternák cases and all of the cases which had been previously protected by the amnesties granted by Vladimír Mečiar. Depending on the government’s reaction to these requirements the initiators of the March against corruption will take further action. The actual impact of the march, if any, is yet to be seen.