On December 8th, 1980,
John Lennon was shot and killed, becoming a revered symbol of amity and anti-violence. His band, The Beatles was extremely influential and sang songs about peace and harmony for the world. Due to the Communist Regime this type of western music was banned, but Czech people still found a way to listen and become influenced.
The first addition to the wall was a stone slab that acted as a memorial to Lennon, reading “For John Lennon” with a cross above his name. It is said that the slab came from an old water fountain but bore a striking resemblance to a gravestone. From this point on, gifts, flowers, and offerings were left at the stone.
In the beginning of 1981,
the slab was given proper engravings as it outlined when Lennon was born, when he died, and included a picture of him. Before the graffitti made its way to this particular wall, Beatles lyrics popped up in other locations around the city.
Later in 1981,
the wall was painted green, attributed to the 16th Congress of the Communist Party. This act wiped away all of the writing and poetry that had been accumulating thus far, further taking away the speech of the people.
Once the wall was repainted, the peaceful Beatles lyrics were replaced. In their wake, were messages calling for rebellion and speaking out against the ruling form of government. Their outrage was continually covered up in different shades of grey and green.
On the 8th of December, 1981,
on the first anniversary of Lennon’s death, the Czech youth gathered and wrote poetry in opposition of the Communist Regime. The government, in an attempt to control the resistance kept painting over the wall, but the Czech’s put posterboard over it and continued on.
Lennon’s enthusiasts stayed loyal throughout the years, holding meetings near Čertovka. Yearly, marches were organized but were continually disrupted by the police in an effort to decrease their impact. Media wars were waged against the people honoring Lennon, calling them alcoholics and claiming they were trying to push western ideals into the country. The media would go on to call what they were afflicted by as “Lennonism”.
Going into the mid-1980’s,
the Lennon Wall was the starting point for most of the political resistances rising around the city. These protests were reaching the size of their predecessors that had taken place in the 70’s.
In the later half of the 1980’s
the Communist Party realized that the support for Lennon and resistance was not dying down. In order to placate the population, they decided to organize Youth Folk concerts specially approved to overshadow the Lennon Wall demonstrations on the anniversaries of his death. The party even went so far as thinking about commemorating Lennon with a plaque in Velkopřevo Square.
In the year 1989,
the John Lennon Peace Club, or (MKJL) met and soon after the poster board was taken down from the walls. The wall was then given back to The Order of the Knights of Malta who decided to go through with a restoration process for the damaged brick. The John Lennon Peace Club then got the Knights of Malta to have František Flašar paint the portrait of John Lennon. Diverting from the original idea of just having a portrait of Lennon and minimal decoration, people soon began to add phrases about peace and resistance to it.
Photo credit: MD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Due to the Velvet Revolution which lasted from November 17th 1989 - December 29th, 1989 Communists now left the wall alone and it became a center of free speech and expression. This Revolution signaled the switch towards Democracy and the wall became a place for people to paint and write. The face of John Lennon and the Imagine Peace Sign became the trademark image of the wall but disappeared under new layers of paint.