Czech children's theater director criticized for racist remarks about Roma
News server iDNES.cz. reports that Deputy Mayor of Brno Matěj Hollan, who is responsible for the city's cultural programming, has objected to Vlastimil Peška, director of the Divadlo Radost children's theater, continuing in that post. Peška has been accused of making racist remarks about Romani people.
The theater is located on Bratislavská Street in the socially excluded Cejl locality. Last week the city's hiring commission voted for Peška to to continue as the director of the theater, which performs primarily for children's audiences.
Hollan, who is a member of the Žít Brno (Living in Brno) initiative as well as Deputy Mayor, has objected to the outcome of that vote. He is bothered by the racist opinions that he claims the director presented to the commission when discussing how the theater should integrate into the socially excluded locality around Bratislavská Street.
"[Peška] launched into several minutes of a harsh racist outburst about the Romani population," Hollan wrote to other Deputy Mayors and the Mayor of Brno in an e-mail made available to Mf DNES. "He began by saying he doesn't want any Roma in the theater, that he's sorry he can't build a wall around the theater because of the Matiční scandal, that if [Romani children] live to the age of 10 it's a bad thing, and that the only good thing is when they're in prison, because they all steal. It was so extremely heinous that I was almost in tears."
Hollan is said to have told several members of the Žít Brno movement, which is clearly against racism, that if Peška is re-appointed director he will resign as Deputy Mayor. Robin Kvapil, another member of the hiring commission and Hollan's colleague in Žít Brno who sits on the Brno-střed council, agrees with Hollan's opinion of Peška's remarks.
"Mr Peška used an entire range of remarks that in my opinion were openly discriminatory and racist," Kvapil told iDNES.cz. Peška, however, rejects the charges of racism.
"Deputy Mayor Hollan should apologize to me for alleging I am racist. We have always endeavored to collaborate with the neighborhood, but the neighborhood hasn't much responded to us. During the 22 years that the theater building has been standing here, the local community has caused us a lot of damage," Peška told iDNES.cz.
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