Human Chain Embraces Faculty In Memory of Tragic Shooting

A commemorative march of hundreds of people yesterday formed a human chain to symbolically embrace the main building of the Faculty of Arts of Charles University (FF UK) on Jan Palach Square in the centre of Prague, in memory of the victims of the tragic shooting that occurred there before Christmas.

On 21 December, a lone shooter, a student of the faculty, killed 14 people and injured 25 others in the faculty’s main building before shooting himself.

The march of mainly young people, primarily students, reached the faculty at around 2:30pm yesterday afternoon. The participants gradually created a human chain around the entire faculty building, according to a CTK correspondent at the scene.

People gathered at the university rector’s seat on Ovocny trh, and set off down Celetna at around 2pm to Jan Palach Square. The march was headed by Charles University Rector Milena Kralickova and FF UK dean Eva Leheckova, carrying lanterns with a light from the memorial site.

Kralickova and Leheckova then symbolically lit a fire in the square, using the light from the lantern, to commemorate the victims of the tragic shooting. The light should burn for the whole of January.

The Prague bells then rang for 14 minutes, one minute for each victim.

The procession thus symbolically transferred the light from the candles lit in front of the rector’s office to the Faculty of Arts building.

During the opening ceremony, Lehecková thanked the student associations that had organised the commemorative event. She said that although the academic world often looks like a closed world turned in on itself, and governed by different rules, the December event has taught the university several important, positive lessons.

“The university is one university community, the university management, the crisis staff, and other faculties of our university are there for us,”  said Leheckova. “In this extraordinary moment, they are looking for concrete ways to return to our academic life and restore it as soon as possible, including in the main building on Jan Palach Square.” 

Police officers were supervising the commemorative march, organised by student volunteers from the FF UK.

The commemorative event is part of the Month for the Faculty, and took place with the support of Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda (ODS), the organisers said.

Thousands of candles cover the entrance to the Karolinum UK administrative building, alongside flowers, stuffed animals, messages for the victims and photographs. The candles are to be removed from the memorial site on Friday morning, and will be turned into a permanent memorial of the tragedy.

The shooting at Prague’s Faculty of Arts is the most deadly incident of this kind in the history of the Czech Republic. The shooter killed 13 people at the scene, and the 14th victim died later in hospital, while another 25 people were injured, some seriously. The perpetrator, a 24-year-old faculty student from central Bohemia, also died at the scene. He killed his father before committing the mass murder. The police also linked him to the murder on 15 December of a man and his two-month-old daughter in the Klanovice forest on the outskirts of Prague.

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