Czech eyewitness: Local racists insulted my Romani friends, assaulted us, and put them in fear for their lives
On Saturday, 8 October in the town of Chotutice near Český Brod a brawl broke out between non-Romani and Romani customers at a local restaurant. Czech tabloid media outlets primarily described the entire event as an attack perpetrated by a group of Romani people against local habitués who were said to have first insulted them in a racist way.
According to those media reports, the Romani people beat up everybody in the pub and then drove off in several vehicles while firing a gas pistol. News server Romea.cz is now the only media outlet to publish an interview with a direct participant in the conflict.
The eyewitness is not a Romani man, but is the person who was celebrating his birthday at the restaurant at the time and who had invited his Romani friends to the party. He describes the course of the conflict, during which he and some local drinkers were injured, absolutely differently than the tabloids have.
News server Romea.cz knows the eyewitness's identity. Given the threats that he and his family have faced since the conflict, we will not be publishing his name.
Q: Would you describe to us precisely what happened?
A: On Saturday I was celebrating my birthday in Chotutice in a local pub where my girlfriend used to work. I invited all my friends who work with me at the ;construction site. I arrived in Chotutice at 3 PM and approximately one hour later, three of my Romani friends arrived. In the interim, local people began coming to the pub. They all wished me a happy birthday and everybody was talking to each other. A little later a group of unknown guys showed up, and after a moment we were also drinking and talking with them, irrespective of ethnicity. At the time there were 10 or 12 there. I was standing at the bar and a guy came over and I heard him say: "Too bad Hitler didn't finish the job." A little later I saw him among my Romani friends, sitting at the table with them and talking. Then he grabbed one Romani guy by his sweatshirt, who understandably grabbed him back, and they began to fight. I did my best to get over there and pull them away from each other, but before I could get there, a group brawl had broken out.
Q: Who began the assault? We have been informed that these were fans of the local football club, is that true?
A: People gradually came and went. I am not certain whether they were football fans. One person came who sat down among the Roma and began tearing into them, verbally insulting them, his insults got worse and worse until he physically assaulted one of the Romani people and the entire room began to fight.
Q: Did you directly see the moment when the brawl began? Who attacked first?
A: Yes, it was somebody I didn't know wearing a black sweatshirt.
Q: Do I understand correctly that the 10 or 12 people you refer to did not belong to your group?
Q: How did the conflict proceed?
A: As I was attempting to get them away from each other, I got punched in the eye, and I can't see out of that eye now because it's full of blood. I told all my friends that we should forget about it and go home because I really did not want to be in a racist pub. As we were walking out the door, other people who had come to the pub assaulted us. My friends were already getting into their cars and suddenly one of the cars was surrounded by a group of the newly-arrived people, and another 10 joined them, and they were holding some kind of pipes that they used to batter the car, they were destroying it and shouting that they would "Set the Gypsies on fire".
Q: Would the barman, perhaps, be willing to testify about this?
A: I think that anybody who saw that would speak up about it. The guys [in the cars] were afraid for their lives, nobody knew who was holding what in their hands. The attackers then pointed to me, saying that I had brought the "black fucks" to the pub and stuff like that. There was an enormous guy there who pushed me to the ground and began to beat me. As a result of that particular attack I have a bruised leg, a bruised knee, bruises on my right side, a black eye, and my right arm is swollen.
Q: Did you or any of your friends require medical treatment?
A: An ambulance took me to the hospital - I have a pacemaker, on top of all the rest of this. I don't know if my friends got medical treatment. However, I have another problem that I would like to mention. My girlfriend is getting messages with vulgar insults and threats. These people are writing that they know where we live, that "revenge will be sweet", that I am a "half-Gypsy" - and we have two children at home.
Q: Did you tell the police?
A: Naturally I told the police, but they made light of it. They never offered us any protection, even when I mentioned that I have a young daughter and that I am afraid she might end up like another Natálka [a Romani infant seriously injured in an arson attack in 2009].
Q: What do you make of how this incident has been rendered in the media?
A: I only saw the news report on TV Nova. I've got a real problem now. I can't see out of one eye, and the doctors could not recognize anything worth finding there, and they do not know whether my vision will return.
Q: Did you give a statement to the police?
A: I spoke with the police on Sunday afternoon, they had been looking for me that same day in the morning. Each time I communicated with them without any problem and explained my situation to them. They also called me on Monday morning. When they ascertained I was in hospital, they were there in five minutes and they took me away for two and a half hours. I gave my statement at the police station.
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