Chair of the Czech Helsinki Committee: Czech society is racist towards Romani people
This speech by the chair of the Czech Helsinki Committee, Václav Vlk, was read aloud on Saturday 26 June 2021 during the commemorative assembly for Stanislav Tomáš by Mikuláš Vymětal of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, who is their clergyman serving minority groups. News server Romea.cz is publishing the speech in translation here:
Dear bereaved survivors, dear family members, dear fellow mourners,
You have assembled here for a commemorative gathering in memory of Stanislav Tomáš, a human being who lived life just like all of us, with the evil that accompanies us. He died under circumstances that many of us perceive as tragic, during a clash with law enforcement, and his death has become an object of public communication that is evoking all kinds of passions. These passions are based on the fact that he was a Romani man and that he lost his life in Czech Police custody. I would like to emphasize that Stanislav Tomáš was a human being, a flawed human being, as we all are. His death can still bring about an impulse for change, both to Czech society as a whole and to the Romani community.
It is necessary to say here, at this place, that Czech society is racist towards Romani people. It is necessry to say here, at this place, that the general approach taken by the Czech Police toward this case is not a good one and that their expression of regret for the loss of life came too late.
It is necessary to say that a violent death at the hands of police is not customary in the Czech lands and that this is an isolated incident.
It is necessary to publicly say that there are ghettos where Romani people live.
It is necessary to publicly say that the lives Romani people live here that are a thousand times more difficult than the lives of the average citizen, irrespective of what it is they are trying to accomplish, and that they are striving for dignity and inclusion into regular society.
It is necessary to publicly say that this is the responsiblity of each of us.
Each of us is able to contribute to changing this.
I support the efforts of all representatives of the Roma to be broadly included into society, Romani people are citizens just like anybody else and they must be equal both in their own eyes and in the eyes of others.
This death and the circumstances around it can become a touchstone and a launchpad for progress. If the death of Stanislav Tomáš has been for a reason, then it is because a higher power wanted it that way and it is a sign of fate.
May Stanislav Tomáš rest in peace, may his family and loved ones find strength, and may all involved fulfill the vision of a society free of anti-Romani prejudice.
JUDr. Václav Vlk
Czech Helsinki Committee
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