Patrik Banga: Violence should not be minimized, but "Čhikatar het" action deserves praise overall
This commentary was first published in Czech on Monday, 24 June 2013. For reporting on the incidents it refers to, please see http://www.romea.cz/en/news/czech/czech-republic-anti-roma-demonstrations-tomorrow-in-duchcov-over-assault and
I didn't want to go to Duchcov this past weekend. Maybe it was because I didn't (and still don't) agree with minimizing the incident in which a married couple was beaten up there. That minimizing was done by the Konexe association, supported by the enlightened Mariposa Čonková, who evidently is not connected to the reality of today's world in the slightest. In my personal opinion, Mirek Brož is not helping local people, but is helping himself most of all. The only thing that he has succeeded in doing in that town is increasing tensions between Czechs and Romani people. Some Romani people let him know that yesterday and in my opinion, what's going on is not far from an affront.
Their idea in and of itself was not a bad one: Let's defend ourselves against violence through a cultural event that will be well-produced overall and attended by a lot of people. Romani people from all over the country will come and a minimum of those who are actually involved will participate. However, there is a big "BUT" here, and that is what led me to attend the "Čhikatar het" event only to the extent that my journalistic obligation required it.
First and foremost, I decidedly would not celebrate the fact that the person who caused the whole conflict in the first place was also participating in organizing the protest action. It seems completely absurd to me to see the 16-year-old "father who has ruined his own life" painting a protest banner. It seems just as absurd to minimize the brawl by saying nothing much happened to the lady involved.
Something did happen to her, even if she didn't get a black eye or broken arms and legs. She is afraid. She is scared by people, by sounds, by everything. No one has asked about her psychological state, but she has lost her job, among other things.
Otherwise, the "Čhikatar het" event should be praised. Young Gujda sang well, the children had a program of activities, people could see the culture with their own eyes. A large number of Romani people came from all over the country to defend the local Roma.
Some others came to town who really are not interested in culture at all, and they met up just a few meters away, during the speech by [DSSS chair] Vandas, who, just like Brož, is exploiting the problem in Duchcov in order to get his face on television. In Vandas's case, that face is blushing with joy at the vision of increasing his electoral chances.
There is no point in describing the content of what he said, which was classic Vandas. He received enthusiastic applause and the mob set off on its march while Vandas beat his retreat. The march began in classic fashion, as it has everywhere else before: Hardcore Nazis with masked faces followed by several hundred locals and gawkers. However, the hardcore guys soon attempted to break through the police cordon and attack the Romani gathering. They were the first to be beaten. To my surprise, the police did not spare them much.
The Nazis, however, were not pacified and started attacking again, this time in a different place after deviating from the announced march route. Now they were shouting "Let us at them", from which it was obvious that they had not come there to express their support for the attacked couple in a peace-loving way. They must have mistaken [photographer] Standa Krupař with a cop or a Romani guy, because they assaulted him too, with a bottle to the head. They also managed to injure a police officer who was struck with a cobblestone. A melée followed during which police chased the Nazis around town, pushing them towards one place by the fishpond, where they managed to corral them. However, they underestimated the tactic of the empty bottles the Nazis had in their pockets. They also had not sufficiently cleaned up the town beforehand so that nothing else would be available to grab. The police probably did not count on the Nazis running all over town and only had the march route cleared.
The bands of Nazis running around the park were not pacified until the reinforcements arrived, and that was a bit later. In practice, therefore, it looked like one little group of Nazis had been pushed to one side of the park near the fishpond, while other small groups were running around the park. I started to lose heart when Martin Martínek [Head of Unit at the Human Rights Section of the Office of the Czech Government] and I ended up between two of those small groups without a police officer in sight because they were intervening elsewhere. A large part of the Nazis knew very well I was on the scene and had already loudly let me know it. I started wondering how far it was to the local hospital.
The battle calmed down for a moment only break out more than half an hour later in a brief skirmish on Mír Street. Police intervened there with pyrotechnics and the mob of about 300 was then definitively dispersed. The war for Duchcov was over.
However, the war has not ended for the locals. They will have to square up to all the grudges the Nazis have called forth. Certainly people will begrudge the fact that the Romani aggressor who participated in the beating of the couple was happily running around town painting banners against racism. The activists babbled and horsed around, the Nazis fought as is their usual custom, and the problem? The problem is not solved.
The problem will have to be solved by time, and by both sides sitting at the same table. No problem has ever been solved for good on the street.
Patrik Banga is an editor for news server iDNES.cz
Update from Romea.cz:
On 16 February 2014, Mr Miroslav Brož of the Konexe civic association sent news server Romea.cz an e-mail alleging that a particular claim made by the author of this article, Patrik Banga, was untrue. Banga claims that a 16-year-old Romani youth was present at the Čikatar het assembly in Duchcov who had also participated in the widely-publicized brawl between a group of Roma and a non-Romani married couple there.
"In the article, the author uses the phrase 'Romani aggressor' and explicitly writes that this person participated in organizing our assembly by painting an anti-racist banner there. This information is untrue. No such person was present at our assembly or painted any banners for it, and no such person participated in organizing our assembly," Miroslav Brož wrote in his e-mail.
Patrik Banga, the author of the article, insists that his original reporting was correct.
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