[<< wikinews] Czechs and Slovaks celebrate twenty years since Velvet Revolution
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 
Czechs and Slovaks yesterday celebrated the twenty-year anniversary of the so-called "Velvet Revolution", which brought down the then Czechoslovakian Communist regime, with thousands re-enacting the demonstration that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall, and elections in Poland and Hungary.
David Gaydecka, one of the organisers, was thirteen when he went with his father to participate in the demonstration. "I didn't really understand what was happening, but I could sense something in  the air. I knew this was something important," he said. "The Wall had come down in Berlin, they were holding elections in Poland and  Hungary. Everyone knew that it would come here too, but nobody knew how to  do it. It was embarrassing for the Czechs; we were almost the last ones."
Former dissident and playright Václav Havel, who went on to become President of Czechoslovakia (and first president of the Czech Republic) joined 5,000 students, past and present, who retraced the march. Originally officials had sanctioned the march, but groups splintered away in an attempt to reach Wenceslas Square. The Communist leaders ordered riot police to seal off streets, leading to beatings and two hundred people injured.
This was to prove the government's downfall with anger throughout the country motivating opposition and the old regime broke down shortly afterwards. "The atmosphere that day was terrible, like a war," Michael Kocáb, Czech Minister for Human Rights and Minorities, who played a major role in the transition from a totalitarian regime to democracy. "I was just a few yards away when I saw the police beating  people. It was the first time that the police did not leave an escape route  for us. By then we were used to clashes but somehow we felt that day that it  would be an important moment that would lead to change and have an impact on  the regime."
Havel, along with current Czech President Václav Klaus, Prime Minister Jan Fischer and hundreds of participants laid flowers and lit candles at a memorial in memory of the violent clashes. "The march set history into motion," said Havel.


=== Related news ===
"Thousands to celebrate twenty years since fall of Berlin Wall" — Wikinews, November 9, 2009


== Sources ==
 "Prague marks Velvet Revolution" — BBC News Online, November 17, 2009
 "Prague remembers the day it glimpsed freedom" — The Times, November 17, 2009
Agence France-Presse. "Celebrations mark 20 years since 'Velvet Revolution' toppled communism" — France 24, November 17, 2009