Czech mayor, fearing theft, rejects Romani volunteers
The town hall in Nový Bor has rejected a group of Romani residents who have offered to clean up a local cemetery before winter. The mayor is afraid they would take they would steal something.
"Given the fact that the trial of the assailants in the so-called machete attack is happening right now in Liberec, we wanted to show that Romani people don't just commit crimes, but that we know how to help out our town. We made an offer to the town leadership that we would organize a volunteer work team to clean up the cemetery," Pavel Danys, secretary of the Czech-Romani Civic Association (Česko-romské občanské sdružení) in Nový Bor, told news server iDNES.cz.
"After a preliminary discussion with Vice-Mayor Stanislava Silná, who was visited by a member of our committee, Dušan Gorol, our proposal was accepted. Then Mayor Dvořák got involved and told Mr Gorol he did not want our assistance," said Danys.
Vice-Mayor Silná says she did meet in person with anyone Romani because she has been on vacation in Belgium. She did speak with someone by telephone. "I liked their initiative, but I didn't promise them anything. I said they would have to contact the mayor," she said.
The mayor has rejected the offer. "We are grateful for all aid, but in the case of the Forest Cemetery, there are two reasons to say no. The cemetery is unique in the entire country because there are rhododendrons growing there and they need expert, specialist care. The second reason is that if 20 - 50 Romani people suddenly turned up at the cemetery and even one copper plate went missing from a gravestone, people would stone me to death for letting them in there," Mayor Dvořák told iDNES.cz.
The mayor even went so far as to tell the Romani volunteers they should first clean up in front of their own homes. He also suggested other parts of town they could clean up, such as Havlíčkova street, Podskalska street, or the children's playground in Arnultovice street.
The Romani residents do not understand the mayor's posturing. "We wanted to make a good will gesture. We wanted to meet up on the town square on Saturday, bring brooms, rakes and shovels, and march up to the Forest Cemetery. We wanted to show that there are just bad people and good people, that it doesn't depend on whether people are Romani or white," said Štefan Gorol, another member of the Czech-Romani Civic Association. "I guess Mr Mayor doesn't want to see the difference. Just like [Czech Senator] Mr Čunek when he was talking about people taking up pitchforks against us. We are really afraid something will happen here like what happened before the war in Germany - instead of the Night of the Long Knives it will be the Night of the Long Pitchforks."
When asked whether it wasn't a pity to refuse the Romani volunteers' offer of aid, Mayor Dvořák said: "What would help the town most of all would be if Romani people behaved decently and obeyed the law."
"Romani residents offered to help the town so they could show that it's not good to tar everyone with the same brush. The mayor has rejected their assistance and done exactly that. These kinds of generalizations are typical of the racist way of thinking. It's unbelievable that a public official can say something like this out loud and no one responds to it. A great deal of this is explained by the fact that Dvořák is in the TOP 09 - SLK party. That party, like the others now in government, is evidently completely indifferent to the fate of Romani people and the fate of poor people in general," František Kostlán, a board member of the Czech Helsinki Committee and a member of the ROMEA association, told news server Romea.cz.
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