Gay men shot outside Slovakian LGBTQ+ bar laid to rest as thousands take to streets in protest

Photos are placed next to candles to honour the gay men killed by a terrorist in Slovakia

Thousands joined a rally in Prague on Wednesday (26 October) to honour the two victims of a tragic shooting outside an LGBTQ+ venue in Slovakia.

The rally in the Czech capital took place on the same day as the funerals of Matúš Horváth, 23, and Juraj Vankulič, 26, the two gay men who were killed on 12 October in front of an LGBTQ+ bar named Tepláreň, AP reported.

Horváth and Vankulič were fatally shot in the tragic incident, while a woman, believed to have worked at the bar, was injured. The suspected gunman was found dead the following morning.

Prime minister Eduard Heger condemned the attack, saying it is “unacceptable” that anyone should fear for their life “because of the way they live”. 

People attended the rally not only to honour the victims of the shooting but to demand improved LGBTQ+ rights in the Czech Republic.

Czeslaw Walek, one of the organisers of the march, told AP that a petition had been circulated – currently made up of over 20,000 signatures – calling on the Czech government to approve same-sex marriage in the country, and improve protections against discrimination for LGBTQ+ people.

“A terrorist intentionally killed LGBTQ people… only by accident did he not kill more,” Walek said.

Amnesty Slovakia confirmed that there would be another demonstration in Bratislava on Thursday (27 October).

Rado Sloboda, director of Amnesty International Slovakia, said in a statement: “Nobody should have to live in fear because of who they are.

“Yet LGBTI people in Slovakia are facing hostility, hatred, and violent attacks while many, including politicians, spread harmful stereotypes and misinformation about them.

“Amnesty International sends our sincere condolences to the loved ones of Juraj and Matúš.”

Thousands of LGBTQ+ activists and allies attended a vigil in Bratislava on 15 October to honour the victims of the shooting, with organisers The Inakosť Institute estimating that at least 20,000 people attended to mourn the men’s deaths.

Slovakia’s president Zuzana Čaputová gave a speech during the event, saying: “I’m sorry that our society was not able to protect your loved ones.

“You belong here, you are valuable for our society.”

The shooting was reportedly reclassified as an act of terrorism on 20 October, with investigators highlighting the suspected gunman’s 65-page “manifesto”, which held hateful opinions towards the LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities.