Chom-chom-chom-chom, whirred a black helicopter overhead as sharpshooters in black patrolled the roofs of the four- and five-story buildings overlooking Wenceslas Square. Several stern-faced Czech police officers swung open a ten-foot section of waist-high steel barricades, whose steel looked so new and shiny it must have been ordered for just this occasion. Rachel and I shuffled ahead, jostled from every direction and swept along with the crowd, through the gap in the make-shift railing. A few people were pulled aside for random searches of their bags.
“My God,” said a Czech lady, recovering her balance as the surge subsided, “there was nowhere near this much security when Gorbachev was here in eighty-seven!”
Now, even with some aggressive pressing forward, we had to settle for a spot half-way up the square. Some young people opted to swing from trees and lampposts for a better view.
The late-afternoon sun lit the face of the National Museum. At the foot of the Wenceslas monument stood a new white structure with blue and red trim, much like a booth at a Fourth-of-July fair, but surrounded by blue-tinted glass, presumably bullet-proof. Czechoslovak and American flags hung from buildings all around.
Suddenly, a group began shoving its way up the square, chanting angrily, carrying a fifteen-foot-long banner stretched between two thin poles: “Velvet Revolution = Puppit Show.”