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May 24, 2018
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Czech Police investigating three suspects over death threats against first-graders

31.1.2018 8:23
The photograph that sparked a wave of online racism. The faces and names of the pupils in the first grade of the Plynárenská School in Teplice, Czech Republic have been blurred in order to protect their identities.
The photograph that sparked a wave of online racism. The faces and names of the pupils in the first grade of the Plynárenská School in Teplice, Czech Republic have been blurred in order to protect their identities.

Czech Television reports that the Czech Police have begun to investigate three suspects whom they believe were involved with the case of the death threats and hateful commentaries made online in response to a photograph of the children in a first-grade class at the Plynárenská Primary School in Teplice. Charges have yet to be filed in relation to the incident.

One suspect is from the Plzeň Region, while the others are from Moravia-Silesia. "As part of the investigation we have managed to establish the identities of three suspects," Daniel Vítek, spokesperson for the Teplice Police, told Czech Television.

"One is being investigated by detectives in Teplice and the other two cases were sent to a different regional directorate because the suspects are locals there, and the investigation of them will continue under that directorate," the spokesperson said. The wave of hateful reactions was prompted by the photo of the first-graders after it was published online by the daily Teplický deník in November 2017 as part of its regular reporting on the start of the school year.

Because the photograph featured predominantly children of Arab and Romani origin, it was then reproduced, along with the names of the pupils and their teachers, on a nationalist website from which it was shared by hundreds of people, frequently with hateful commentaries accompanying their posts. "A classroom full of terrorists, a hand grenade would fit there, shoot them right away," one Internet user wrote.

"They're from the Gasworks School [Plynárenská, the street after which the school is named, means 'Gasworks']. That's the solution right there," said another post.

While many public figures stood up for the school in response to the hate speech, few were politicians, with the exception of then-Czech Education Minister Stanislav Štěch. The ROMEA organization responded to the wave of online hate by launching a fundraising campaign for its Romani Scholarship Program called "THEY WANT TO GAS THEM, WE WANT TO SEND THEM TO SCHOOL!", which was supported by many figures and organizations.

Internet entrepreneur Patrick Zandl also organized a collection for the school. The money that was fundraised by ROMEA will be donated to the primary school next week in a ceremony.

dm, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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