Martin Mejstrik, born in 1962, was in his last year at Prague's dramatic arts academy (DAMU) when students staged a peaceful demonstration on 17 November 1989. When they were trapped downtown between two police cordons, they held up their outstretched hands to show they were not armed. They held flowers and banners saying, No violence, and Freedom. They sat down in front of the shields and helmets and lit candles. Then they were brutally beaten. About 600 people were injured, many with concussions or fractures of facial bones and upper extremities. The next day, DAMU students sprang into action and--as dissident-dramatist Vaclav Havel said--shook the nation from its lethargy. They called for a student strike and demanded an investigation of the beatings; Mejstrik became chairman of the students' national strike committee. As editor in chief of Kavarna A.F.F.A.--a DAMU cultural publication that, he says, had managed to function uncensored thanks in large part to an enlightened dean--Mejstrik already had in place a wide network of students around the country. In those first days, when the nation was still in the dark about what was happening in Prague, students jumped into cars to inform the countryside and to drum up support for a nationwide general strike. They were among the founders of Civic Forum, which would be instrumental in the communist government's demise. Today, Mejstrik is a freelance writer and the publisher of the Kavarna A.F.F.A. cultural review.

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