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Commentary by Roma activist Drahomír Radek Horváth on the Nový Bydžov demonstrations

Nový Bydžov, 14.3.2011 3:34, (ROMEA)

Here is my take on the anabasis in Nový Bydžov. The Autonomous Nationalists and National Resistance, once again, as always, have infiltrated and inseminated the DSSS, and the permitted gathering of a legitimate political subject has therefore become a PR campaign for the domestic neo-Nazi scene. Ordinary people, in a paroxysm of mob insanity, are applauding the slogans "Nothing but the nation", "Gypsy terror", "Bohemia for the Czechs", etc.

Civil society has failed. This country is not Germany. Nový Bydžov is not Dresden, where neo-Nazis are not allowed by their fellow citizens to march through the streets even when their marches are officially permitted by the relevant authorities. I don't want to advertise our local parody of an ethnic political grouping along the European model any further, so let's not discuss the DSSS anymore.

On the Police of the Czech Republic and Czech Interior Minister John:

The commander of the police intervention, Mr Krása, evidently committed an error by neglecting his obligations and failing to act within the limits of the law with respect to the demonstration by the DSSS, the Autonomous Nationalists and the National Resistance. The crowd at yesterday's demonstration was swarming with neo-Nazis with their faces covered and many logos of the banned Workers' Party were on display. That's the party the Czech Supreme Administrative Court labeled racist and xenophobic. The chanting of slogans such as "Nothing but the nation" and "Bohemia for the Czechs" made no impression on the Police of the Czech Republic. Sensitized citizens, however, do not want to let such illegal speech go unnoticed, and they blockaded the neo-Nazis' march. An order was then given for a brutal, disproportionate intervention against a crowd that had not obeyed a call to disperse and had thereby committed a misdemeanor.

There is a wide range of options when it comes to the use of force. One of the most brutal options available was selected, a charge on horses at full speed into a crowd of seated people in an alley from which there was no escape. I saw approximately 10 people injured.

It was then made possible for those whose behavior had been completely illegal to march through the town, and the Police of the Czech Republic assisted them. The guilty party is not the rank and file, but the commander of the intervention. The fact that Czech Interior Minister Radek John, speaking on the television program "You Have the Floor" ("Máte slovo") prior to Saturday, 12 March 2011, solemnly swore that the police were ready in Nový Bydžov and that he was personally concentrating on that town, is horrifying given the overall context of what happened. In answer to my questions, John replied that his ministry would continue the work started by his predecessor, former Interior Minister Pecina, or rather that begun by "the Whip of God against all radicals", Mr Komorous.

Understandably, after the way in which the counter-demonstration in Nový Bydžov was dispersed, neo-Nazis proceeded to attack ordinary Roma people in the town. They had received the impression from the behavior of the Police of the Czech Republic that they could start their pogrom with impunity. I don't want to fall victim to my own passions, so I will try to take longer view here. The minister is, after all, at war with the cops right now. What if the brutality of this intervention was intentionally chosen to be disproportionate, given that there were so many human rights activists on the scene who could be expected to turn on the Interior Minister and ask for his head? What if my bitterness ends up serving some power game at the ministry? What if someone combined the pleasant with the useful and is now waiting for this unloved minister to step down? I don't know about other people, but I am not going to be anyone's pawn. Minister John is all right with me.

On the local administration:

Mayor Louda permitted the meeting and subsequent march through a socially excluded Roma locality by a political party which is one of the most controversial in the country and whose rhetoric is completely anti-Gypsy. He saw no risk in doing so. He is a dilettante who does not know the letter of the Law on the Right to Assembly, No. 84/1990, Coll. He claimed he couldn't disperse an ongoing permitted gathering even if it was violating the law. He should have gone to coffee with the Mayor of Litvínov, Mr Šťovíček, last Thursday after their television appearance to learn how Šťovíček once dispersed a permitted Workers' Party demonstration there.

When I came home after the demonstration in Nový Bydžov, I immediately went to bed. I had a dream, but it was not as sophisticated as that of Martin Luther King. I dreamed that I could finally, calmly, and without concern, know the kind of feelings that the majority society has, that the Roma community could raise up its own alternative to the right-wing extremists. I dreamed that a militant, radical group of Roma would concentrate just on clashing with the Autonomous Nationalists, the National Resistance and the other demented people from the Czech community. The rest of the Roma, me included, would, from the comfort of their living rooms, spend their time watching the news from the sites of clashes between these two radical groups based on these ethnic platforms. I finally felt, at least for a while, what the majority part of society here feels. I watched as one extremist knifed another, but it did not concern me personally, the police cooled them all off with water cannon, and then I woke up and felt fine.

However, it was still night, so I fell asleep again, and then I had a more controversial dream. The radical group of Roma wanted the majority part of the population to experience the same feelings the Roma community does today, so it addressed its diatribes against the majority as a whole. This group marched through classy neighborhoods with prestigious addresses and the police claimed the marches were permitted. Their tromping and shouting of slogans (which were on the border of the acceptable) drove people to hide in their ornate homes and to shut and lock their doors. The children and the women were afraid and the streets were filled with choruses of slogans in the style of "Black Power". Modern Black Panthers in the Czech Republic.

I woke up in a sweat, frightened by what my beloved majority had experienced in my dream, the same thing that I experience every single day. Fear, terror, and tears in their eyes - but the radicals had been given the green light. I wouldn't wish my dreams coming true on anyone.

Drahomír Radek Horváth, Gwendolyn Albert, Drahomír Radek Horváth, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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