Activist from Prague went through long ordeal for writing 202 with a washable spray

CZECH REPUBLIC/ 2019

202 – those are the only three numbers which the Czech activist Thomas Franke managed to write on the wall of the building of the CEZ Group in Prague on 11 October 2019. Then he started to doubt whether he should continue writing. He was arrested and the Prague 4 District Court sentenced him for criminal damage. His first sentence was to pay 10,000 CZK, which is around 400 euros, or to spend 30 days in jail.

For those who are unaware what the CEZ Group is, here is some brief info. It is one of the leading economic entities in the Czech Republic. Furthermore, it operates in Western, Central, and South-Eastern Europe too. The main subjects of its business endeavours are the generation, distribution, trading, and sale of electricity and heat, trading and sale of natural gas, provision of comprehensive energy services from the new energy sector, and coal-mining. 

But let’s look deeper into the story of Thomas.

Why did he write the number 202? And what did he initially want to write?

He wanted to write a sentence: 2025 – the end of emissions.

In court, Thomas’ defence was based on, inter alia, his motives for wanting to write such a sentence on the wall of the building of the CEZ Group.

Thomas’s motives and the facts about CEZ Group

According to independent research, CEZ is pretending to be a half-state organisation, and the truth is that 70 percent of it is under the state. Moreover, CEZ is pretending to be a nature-friendly company, while at the same time praising itself to its shareholders for its significant increase in burning coal, and it doesn’t want to get rid of the most damaging technologies from the 19th century. CEZ is responsible for 27 percent of the total emissions in the Czech Republic per year, which is more than the emissions caused by all vehicles and planes, together with all of the industrial emissions. The Czech Republic has more than double per capita emissions per year in comparison to Sweden, but also to countries such as Hungary or Romania. CEZ is damaging the natural environment and the health of people and is responsible for 730 untimely deaths in the Czech Republic. Those are just some of Thomas’ arguments. The list is long, and you can find the extra sources at the end of the article. Thomas is convinced that CEZ plays a big role in damaging the future of our planet and he will not stop protesting against it.  

But there is still one question mark – why was he doubting whether he should continue writing, and therefore why did he write just the first three numbers – 202?

Because he was writing it with a washable spray and he realised that he would need to write the number 5 over the rubber seal of the window-pane, and that it would be harder to erase it from there. So he questioned whether he should go on writing. 

Immediately after the police arrested him, his colleagues from the Extinction Rebellion movement erased the numbers 202 from the wall. The walls of the building of the CEZ Group in Prague were as clean as before.

The Trial

But still, on 25 October 2019 the Prague 4 District Court sentenced Thomas for criminal damage.

Thomas did not feel guilty. He appealed the judicial decision and defended himself at the Prague 4 District Court on 30 January 2020. The judge once again declared Thomas guilty of criminal damage, but this time the sentence was changed to 100 hours of community service.

Thomas once again appealed the judicial decision. On 10 June 2020 he defended himself at the Municipal Court in Prague and he was acquitted. 

Even at the end of the judicial process that Thomas won, the fact is that he needed to go through a very tough and quite long ordeal, even though he deliberately used a washable spray and actually didn't cause any damage to the building of CEZ. The trial has all the elements of harassment – when big and powerful companies threaten activists and sue them on groundless bases.   


The list of Thomas’ defence sources:

CZ 18/03/2019 CEZ Group annual report for the year 2018, p. 152

ENG www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator

CZ 02/05/2009 Record-breaking rewards for CEZ bosses, 2.2 billion CZK, Týden.cz

CZ 29/09/2011 z Schwarzenberg: We all know that CEZ financed political parties, Aktuálně.cz

CZ 13/11/2017  It was an era of the grossest clientelism, recalls former intelligence chief Randák on Topolánek's government, lidovky.cy

CZ 13/01/2020 The Facebook page which insults environmentalists is managed by the creator of the Tykač power plant's Facebook image, Aktuálně.cz 

Sources:

CZ 29/01/2020 Thomas’ letter to the judge, Extinction Rebellion CZ

CZ 09/06/2020 The Court, Extinction Rebellion CZ

CZ/ENG Thomas vs. ČEZ, Youtube

CZ www.extinctionrebellion.cz/pridejte-se/