A Pair of Red Shorts
Every now and again there has to be a line drawn and some consequences dished out. This is a true story about an outlandish protest and an equally outlandish but ultimately petty response. This post will help you understand why sometimes you see a pair of red shorts hanging above a door, in a window or maybe even on a little flagpole. I tell this story with some added detail on the Old Town and Jewish Quarter Walking Tour.
There is a protest movement in Czech called “Ztohoven”, it literally translates as “100 shits”. They pop up every now and again usually with an artistic political protest message on some relevant topic of the day. I first stumbled across them in 2007 when they hacked a TV program and simulated a nuclear explosion in the background of the reporter. Another time they unveiled a board with the telephone numbers of some very important people. So you get the idea.
So we skip forward to 2015 and all throughout the year there had been talk about Russian influence on the President especially accusations of rigged tenders etc but essentially he was seen to be strongly linked with Russian money and somebody inclined to easily forget the communist era.
On Saturday 19th September 2015 the Ztohoven group launched what would become it’s most internationally reported artistic protest (but not yet!). They took advantage of scaffolding at the Prague Castle to climb on the roof, remove the Presidential Standard and replace it with a big pair of underwear. This was interpreted as the President hanging out his dirty washing or having no shame in Russian dealings).
The red shorts flew for 40 minutes. After that little escapade the two “chimney sweeps” and “building manager (guy in the white helmet)” were arrested but by then they had thrown the Standard down to a colleague who got away (fun fact – the Standard was cut into 162 pieces and posted to random people).
They went to Criminal court and according to the verdict, Ztohoven had to pay the Prague Castle Administration CZK44,000 for a damaged roof, CZK10,000 for some cut rope and CZK8400 for the stolen standard. The administration wanted much more for the standard but in the end the value of the worn standard was determined by expert opinion. Although nationally reported it did not warrant any real international attention.
Nobody really asked what happened to the red shorts but they were officially bought by the Prague Castle Administration for CZK1.
On June 18th 2018 President Zeman called a press conference in the private gardens of Prague Castle. This was not unusual but the fact that there was an open fire on a hot June day was surprising. After a brief ramble about how people should treat each other one of his assistants unboxed the red shorts and after a couple of steps the President handed them off to two firemen to put in the fire-pit. I just have to remind you that this was live on TV.
The international reaction was something along the lines of “What the F**k!”. From a purely financial view, private collectors had valued the shorts at something around CZK2 Million (about U$50,000) so he could have sold them and given the money to charity but no, it’s President Zeman. So when you see a pair of red shorts on a pole or just hanging in a window it’s likely to be in political protest against Zeman.
Video and Picture Credits: www.ztohoven.cz