Czech leader calls 'Black Lives Matter' slogan racist

IN a 2019 photo, Czech President Milos Zeman (centre) speaks during a meeting with China's President Xi Jinping (not pictured) in Beijing. PHOTO: REUTERS

PRAGUE (AFP) - Czech President Milos Zeman on Tuesday (June 30) described the "Black Lives Matter" slogan as racist, 11 days after the European Parliament strongly backed the BLM campaign and urged EU countries to embrace its aims.

Speaking at the US embassy in Prague to mark US Independence Day on July 4, Zeman compared the BLM leadership to the ever-watchful eyes of "Big Brother" keeping tabs on citizens' behaviour.

Zeman targeted the "Black Lives Matter" campaign that has spread around the globe since George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, was killed in US police custody a month ago.

"I say that the slogan 'Black Lives Matter' is a racist slogan because all lives matter," Zeman said in a speech provided by his spokesman.

The BLM movement says black lives have been valued far less than the lives of others.

Zeman, a pro-Russian and pro-Chinese left-winger, slammed what he called attacks on the independence of citizens, faith and nations.

Addressing the US ambassador in English, Zeman denounced "the riots on the streets, the burning of the cars, destroying of statues in both countries".

In the Czech Republic, an EU country, protesters painted the words "He was a racist" and "Black Lives Matter" on a statue of British World War II leader Winston Churchill.

The BLM movement has been regarded as largely peaceful. Protesters have targeted statues in the United States and Europe that depict historical figures who owned slaves or were colonisers.

The 75-year-old Zeman, who is serving his second five-year term until 2023, blamed "stupid fellows who declare themselves value leaders, or even opinion leaders".

"We need free thinking, we need common sense," he said.

"I do not need any new Big Brother," he said, using a term from George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 to claim the BLM was foisting its opinions on others.

Adopted by 493 to 104 votes, the European Parliament on June 19 declared that "Black Lives Matter" and denounced racism and white supremacism in all its forms.

The symbolic resolution rebuked US President Donald Trump for his "inflammatory rhetoric" and for threatening to deploy the army against protesters.

It also urged EU countries to denounce "the disproportionate use of force and racist tendencies in law enforcement".

Zeman is known for controversial remarks. He has likened the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Adolf Hitler and called for the extermination of journalists on several occasions.

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