An estimated quarter of a million Czechs rallied in Prague on Sunday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, in the biggest show of public discontent since the 1989 Velvet Revolution which overthrew Communism.
The rally in Letna park was the culmination of a series of demonstrations in recent weeks against Babis, who has faced investigations over alleged fraud and conflicts of interest, claims he vehemently denies.
Organisers said they believed that about 250,000 people had attended Sunday’s rally. Phone operator T-Mobile said its network usage analysis put the number of participants at over 258,000. A police spokesman declined to give an estimate.
The total population of the Czech Republic is 10.7 million.
Protesters carried banners saying “Resign”, “We’ve had enough”, “We won’t give up democracy”, and others waved Czech and EU flags. Many families brought children to the rally, which was peaceful as were other recent protests against both Babis and his justice minister.
Wow. Drone footage of Protests today in #Prague Demanding Resignation of PM Babis over fraud.
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) June 23, 2019
Babis has said people have the right to protest but has firmly refused to step down. His populist ANO movement remains the most popular party, although its support has dipped slightly in the past two months to 27.5%, according to a poll by Kantar agency released on June 9.
Babis also has enough backing in parliament, where a no-confidence vote planned for Wednesday is likely to fail.
Police proposed in April that Babis, a billionaire businessman-turned-politician sometimes likened to US President Donald Trump, should be formally charged for fraud in tapping a European Union subsidy a decade ago to build a hotel and conference centre outside Prague. He denies any wrongdoing.
The appointment of a new justice minister just after the police announcement prompted rallies by demonstrators suspicious that Babis was trying to influence proceedings. Babis has also vigorously denied that claim.
“Our country has many problems and the government is not solving them. It is not solving them because the only worry of the prime minister is how to untangle himself from his personal problems,” said Mikulas Minar, a 26-year-old theology student who set up the Million Moments for Democracy, a civic group that organised the protests.
“It is unacceptable for our prime minister to be a person under criminal investigation,” he told the crowd from a giant rock festival-like stage.
No politicians were invited to address the rally, the organisers said.
— Vexillology (@VexReddit) June 24, 2019
Filip Rubas, who joined protests in 1989 against the then communist regime, said he turned out on Sunday to send a message to politicians that they will be held accountable.
“We think our leaders need to be reminded very strongly that they do not own our country, that they are not above the law (or constitution) and that there are still enough caring people who are not brainwashed by hateful propaganda,” said Rubas, 50.
He travelled to the rally with his wife and a group of friends from Brno, the country’s second city, 200 km (125 miles) from Prague.
Babis, 64, suffered another setback from leaked preliminary results of an audit by the European Commission, which determined he is in conflict of interest as the beneficiary of trust funds where he had transferred his chemicals, farming, media and food business, valued at $3.7 billion by Forbes.
Babis insists the audit, which said companies in the trust fund should not be eligible for EU development subsidies, is wrong and this would be proven in the final conclusions, expected late this year or early in 2020.
WATCH: Trump blurts out a massive lie about Dem congresswomen — after being asked about Melania
President Donald Trump on Friday falsely accused Democratic congresswomen of using the phrase "evil Jews."
Trump ignited a firestorm over the weekend after saying that the congresswomen of color should to "go back" to their countries of origin. At a rally on Wednesday, his supporters chanted "send her back" after Trump attacked one of them, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
But on Friday, Trump insisted the congresswomen were the real racists.
"You know what is racist to me? When somebody goes out and says the horrible things about our country, the people of our country, that are anti-Semitic, that hate everybody, that speak with scorn and hate -- that to me is really a very dangerous thing," Trump said.
Iran says it has seized British oil tanker
Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Friday they had captured a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf after Britain seized an Iranian vessel earlier this month, further raising tensions along a vital international oil shipping route.
Britain said it was urgently seeking information about the Stena Impero after the tanker, which had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia, suddenly changed course after passing through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf.
The Revolutionary Guards said they seized the tanker at the request of Iranian maritime authorities for "not following international maritime regulations," state television reported.
Former FBI Director Comey outlines the burning questions he’d ask Robert Mueller
Former FBI Director James Comey has written a lengthy post at the Lawfare blog outlining the most important questions that Democrats need to ask of former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Although many of the questions outlined by Comey are simply asking Mueller to rehash the findings of his final report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, he does ask some questions designed to get Mueller to offer up his own analysis of President Donald Trump's actions, such as, "Did you find substantial evidence that the president had committed obstruction of justice crimes?" and "Did you reach a judgment as to whether the president had committed obstruction of justice crimes?"