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Commentary: Czech Police biased against anti-racist demonstrators

Prague, 2.2.2015 20:43, (ROMEA)
On the left is the so-called Czech-Romani flag, which police said was the reason evangelical pastor  Mikuláš Vymětal and Romani activist Ivana Čonková were detained on 31 January 2015 on the Old Town Square.  On the upper right is an altered Czech flag waving over the heads of anti-Islamic demonstrators at the same time and place, and on the lower right is an altered Czech flag held by anti-Islamic demonstrators in front of Prague Castle on 16 January 2015. (Photograph sources;   ČTK, Eurozprávy, Konexe)
On the left is the so-called Czech-Romani flag, which police said was the reason evangelical pastor Mikuláš Vymětal and Romani activist Ivana Čonková were detained on 31 January 2015 on the Old Town Square. On the upper right is an altered Czech flag waving over the heads of anti-Islamic demonstrators at the same time and place, and on the lower right is an altered Czech flag held by anti-Islamic demonstrators in front of Prague Castle on 16 January 2015. (Photograph sources; ČTK, Eurozprávy, Konexe)

Are you an Islamophobe? If you are, then apparently you can take scissors to the t-shirt you got during the last World Cup in football or hockey, cut out the state symbol of the Czech Republic, take needle and thread and sew it onto the state flag of the Czech Republic

With this creation, which is supposed to show the public you are twice the patriot anyone else is, you then take to the streets, led by an MP from a party that has only nine members and another politician who is still in need of a political home. Your group will shout racist, vulgar slogans that meet the definition of defamation on the basis of belief, nationality or race - but you aren't afraid of prosecution.  

You aren't afraid of being charged with altering state symbols either. With police protection, you will calmly march to the Czech Interior Ministry - you'll even get to take a look at the inside of the Letna tunnel, which ordinary pedestrians don't usually get to access.

Your rights to assembly and freedom of speech will be protected, secured, and well-treated - including tolerance for certain "missteps" of yours. After all, we're all just Czechs.

If, on the other other hand, you care about peaceful coexistence between people of various origins and religious faiths, then you carry a reproduction of one of the so-called "Czech-Romani flags", an artwork combining motifs of the Czech and Romani flags that has never aspired to become a state symbol and wants to do nothing more than artistically express the indubitable place of the Romani minority in the Czech Republic. Then, with several Christians, several Muslims, and several Romani people, you go to show those participating in the demonstration against Islam in the Czech Republic that we actually all get along well here.  

You hold one edge of the so-called "Czech-Romani flag" for a while. If the person holding the other edge begins singing a Romani song, the Islamophobes begin to racially abuse you, and then you are detained by the Police of the Czech Republic on "suspicion of a misdemeanor against order in the state administration, the defamation of a state symbol".

You will be taken to the police station, and on the way you get to see a police van from the inside. That's also not usually accessed by just anyone.

It's your own fault - you should not have publicly displayed your disagreement with the Islamophobes. Here I originally planned to continue by saying I do not understand what the difference is between the Romani wheel sewn onto one flag and the Bohemian lion and Moravian eagle sewn onto another, why the police felt it necessary to intervene in the case of the former and not in the case of the latter, especially when felony racist abuse is being shouted beneath the State Symbol sewn onto the altered State Flag, etc.

I won't go on in that vein, because at least two possible explanations occur to me. The first explanation is that one's own self-interest is always closer to one's heart, even when it is immoral.

Why should the forces of order risk a conflict with a group numbering several hundred people calling for "drastic solutions" (which at least one of them called for not just verbally but also physically) when it is much easier to get rid of the convener of an assembly of several dozen Christians including a pastor, Muslims, Romani activists and other non-violent "sun worshipers" who have become a thorn in the side of the Islamophobes and their politicians, and whose ranks did not include any neo-Nazis or racists? They will do so even at the cost of pursuing a double standard in law enforcement, as justice in our country begins to recede by leaps and bounds.  

The other explanation might be that the main problem with that Romani wheel is that it is ROMANI. Moreover, it is being used within the framework of showing solidarity with Muslims living in the Czech Republic.

If we can only tolerate (or even endorse) the alteration of the state flag of the Czech Republic through the addition of another Czech state symbol, then the use of a Romani symbol to do the same thing is,as per the Police of the Czech Republic, a "suspected misdemeanor against order in the state administration, the defamation of a state symbol". If this possible explanation is even remotely close to the truth, then there is no point in reflecting on the degree to which there is a double standard in law enforcement or how far justice is receding into the distance - because if it is the case, then it is heading in the direction of something we might find equivalent to the "justice" of the Nazi regime.  

Ondřej Wolf is a retired evangelical pastor.

Ondřej Wolf , translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Česko-romská vlajka, demokracie, Demonstrace, Islám, Policie



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