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October 22, 2018
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Czech demonstration against doubting the genocide of the Roma, hatred and racism

17.3.2018 22:07

Today at 13:00 in Prague there was a demonstration against doubting the Holocaust and its Romani victims, against racism, and against violence that was attended by several dozen Romani people and other opponents of the dissemination of hatred. In addition to speeches, the names of the victims of racial violence in the Czech Republic were read and the Romani anthem was sung by the Bengas band.

From the cluster of people waving the flags of the Czech Republic, the EU and the Romani nation, critical shouts were heard primarily about Czech MP Tomio Okamura (SPD), the vice-chair of the lower house. The demonstrators believe he is a racist who should not be in Parliament.

Despite the freezing weather and snow in the capital today, dozens of people including families with young children traveled to the park to demonstrate. The slogans chanted included "Stop Okamura", "Okamura is a nightmare", and "Okamura out".

The crowd also criticized outgoing Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO). One banner showed a diagram of fascism being created by the "oligarch Babiš", the "neo-Nazi Okamura" and the "authoritarian (Miloš) Zeman".

Opening remarks were made by the convener of the assembly, Emil Voráč of the Khamoro organization, and by Ladislav Baláž, chair of the Europe Roma organization. Jan Cverčko of the Association of Romani Representatives of Liberec Region read a declaration against xenophobia that was signed by 15 figures in Liberec last year.

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"The European Union is the guarantee of our security," said Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, in his speech, warning of another law that could prpve dangerous for Roma, the law on the direct election of governors and mayors. Růžička believes anti-Romani populists and racists could take over the leadership of municipalities and Regional Authorities as a result.

Bengas then performed the Romani anthem. "As the Bengas band we disagree with Mr President, Mr Babiš and mainly with Tomio Okamura. Out with them all!" called frontman Vladimír Demeter at the end of the anthem.

"It's not easy to live in a dark skin in this state. Let's not just complain about it, though. Let's be active, get involved, take advantage of our right to vote to achieve change," said the director of the Romodrom organization, Nikola Taragoš, in his speech.

"Let's not just be dissatisfied, let's be good citizens and people, the way we were raised," Taragoš said. He closed his remarks by expressing gratitude to the politicians who had successfully arranged for the purchase of the pig farm at Lety, which has occupied a Romani genocide site since 1972.

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The journalist Martin Uhlíř then spoke and reminded those assembled that SPD politicians have been denying the Holocaust and its Romani victims. "Fascism begins on the floor of Parliament, at the party conventions, and it ends with concentration camps. We must nip it in the bud," Uhlíř said, reminding those assembled of the police intervention against peaceful demonstrators in the town of Krupka when they blockaded a neo-Nazi march.

"In Brno, [counter-protesters] managed to outnumber the Nazis and the Czech Police could not afford to intervene against so many people, and for that reason I am asking majority-society members to stand up for the minorities here," he said. "It's a big disgrace that the vice-chair of the lower house is a person who has doubted the genocide of the Roma and who has shamelessly won votes by abusing the memories of people who were tortured and who died. We must do our best to get him removed. All the MPs who prevented his dismissal recently are a disgrace. Shame on them."

"You are the heroes, those of you who came here, because you are standing here and fighting for the right thing. It doesn't matter if there are 10 of us or if there are 500. What is important is to fight," said Jozef Stojka of the Union of Vlax Roma.

Stojka called for unity among Romani people and criticized the media who, in his view, just portray Roma as "inadaptable". "Television does not show the life of Romani people as it actually is," he said.

The speech by Jožka Miker of the Konexe organization was interrupted for security reasons at about 14:15 because football fans were scheduled to march through the area. After 20 minutes of waiting for them to arrive, the demonstration resumed.

Miker reminded those assembled of the persecutions of Romani people in the past. "Let's not allow history to repeat itself and concentration camps to be built again," he said, calling on people not to divide themselves along color lines.

"We are for a united Europe. Let's not allow this country to leave the European Union. That is the basis of our freedom," Miker said.

A speech was also made by Ladislav Tatár, who reminded those assembled of the murder of his son in the year 2012 in Tanvald. Other speeches were made by Štefan Gorol, Jan Rusenko, Vojtěch Pačan and Miroslav Tancoš, whose speech was briefly interrupted when the football fans finally marched past the park at 14:45.

Some speakers criticized the fact that not many Romani people had attended the assembly. The conveners read the names of people who have been murdered because of their race in the Czech Republic since 1989 and the gathering ended just after 15:00.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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