Dry Presidential Groupie

After Barack Obama finished up his speech on Sunday to the tens of thousands present on Prague’s Castle (Hradčanské) Square, he decided to wade into the crowd a bit. In the process, one enthusiastic Czech got so close as to pat the head of the Most Powerful Man on Earth.

An article in the largest-circulation quality Czech daily, Mladá fronta dnes (I patted Obama on the head. He hugged me.), has the details about this character, as well as a couple of pictures of the incident in question so you can decide just how outraged you’d care to be. That guy’s name is Jaroslav Suchý (a fairly common Czech last-name; it means “dry”), and he’s no stranger to the Czech security service. But hold on, it’s not what you think: as the head of that organization, Lubomír Kvíčala, told MFD:

That person who lightly touched the president on his hair I know. We already encountered him a couple of times at previous visits of the American president Bush and at a visit by Mrs. [Condoleezzaa] Rice. He is just enthusiastic about such visits and loves them. He’s definitely not dangerous.

According to Suchý himself, he was waiting at the checkpoint offering access to Castle Square from midnight Saturday, i.e. seven hours before the gates were opened for the public, and other on-the-scene MFD reporters confirm that he was among the first to be admitted by police, which enabled him to rush up to grab a prime position up front (into what generally would be termed the “mosh pit” in a rock-concert context – here, it turned into the “press-the-flesh zone”). As one such reporter states, “[f]or a whole three hours he loudly let people in his vicinity know how he was looking forward to the speech.” And Suchý himself also told MFD that “although I don’t really speak English, I clapped at every one of Obama’s sentences. Despite the fact that I was mainly looking at the president rather than the [translated] sub-titles.”

The article goes on to note that, when Jaroslav Suchý is not tracking down and applauding high-ranking American officials, he is pursuing a case in the Czech courts seeking compensation for being forced to attend “special schools” (i.e. schools for the handicapped), which he claims he was forced into solely because of the color of his skin. Perhaps some of you, examining the article’s photos again, may think this is some sort of joke, but it likely is not: the Czech Republic does still have an ethnic-discrimination problem, although it is not directed against black people (who are exceedinly rare) but against the Romany, or “gypsies.” So apparently the authorities where Suchý grew up kept classifying him as a gypsy.

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