Thousands gather in Prague to pay tribute to two slain Slovak gay men

Thousands of people gathered in the Czech capital on Wednesday to pay tribute to two Slovak gay men shot dead this month outside a bar in Slovakia and demanded better protection for LGBTQ people and their families.

The rally in Prague’s central Wenceslas Square took place on the same day as the funerals of Matúš Horváth and Juraj Vankulič were held in Slovakia.

Police said they stepped up their presence at the Prague rally after arresting a man who threatened to use a gun against LGBTQ people in the square.

“We want to live without fear,” read one of the banners on display. “A terrorist intentionally killed LGBTQ people,” said Czeslaw Walek, one of the organizers. “It was only by accident that he didn’t kill more.”

Walek said that to date some 17,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Czech government and parliament to approve legislation that would give LGBTQ people the same protections enjoyed by ethnic, racial and other minorities. The petition also calls for the country to allow same-sex marriages.

The two Slovaks were killed two weeks ago outside a bar that is a popular spot for the local LGBTQ community in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava.

The 19-year-old suspect was found dead. Police say he probably shot himself in the head.

The suspect posted racist text on Twitter expressing his hatred towards Jews and LGBTQ people, as well as messages about the shooting.

Police were initially investigating the killings as a hate crime, but later said they suspected it was an act of terrorism. They said the suspect was likely planning to target others, including Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger.

Berta D. Wells