Vaclav Havel's coffin carried through Prague, followed by thousands


Draped in the Czech flag, Vaclav Havel's coffin is carried into Prague Castle on December 21, 2011, followed by his widow Dagmar, his daughter Nina, and a crowd of an estimated 10,000 people.


Michal Cizek

The body of Vaclav Havel, the playwright and anti-Communist who became the Czech Republic's first president, was carried through Prague Wednesday, accompanied by an estimated 10,000 mourners.

The procession marked the start of three days of national mourning for Havel, who died Sunday morning at the age of 75.

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He was carried through the capital to Prague Castle, where he will lie in state until his funeral on Friday. Taking the "royal route" traditionally used by kings and emperors, his widow and daughter led the parade, followed by Czech President Vaclav Klaus, other officials and friends, and thousands of Czech citizens, said the BBC.

Reuters described the scene:

Hundreds of soldiers lined the streets forming an honor guard and a military band played funeral dirges. Some people peered out of windows above the streets for a better view while many schoolchildren took a day off school with their teachers to witness the event. [...]

Some watched the procession on a giant screen in the square in front of the castle while others jostled for position closer to the street for a better view of the carriage drawn by six black horses. Most stood in silence as they waited for Havel's body to pass by.

The crowd applauded and rattled keys as the coffin entered the castle, in what Reuters described as a "spontaneous tribute recollecting the protests people made during the revolution to signal the final bell on the communist regime."

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Summarizing the strong emotion that Havel provoked, his trade and industry minister Vladimir Dlouhy told the crowd:

"Some loved him and some disagreed with him, but he fundamentally changed our lives and the leader of the Velvet Revolution."

Flags were flown at half-mast across the country, Agence France Presse reported, while theaters and cinemas cancelled their shows as a mark of respect.

Havel's body had been on display since Monday in the Prague Crossroads, a former church he helped turn into a cultural center, where thousands of people left flowers for him, reported the Prague Monitor.

A campaign is underway to have Prague's Ruzyne Airport renamed in Havel's honor, according to the Prague Post.

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