Czech opposition leaders express support for Romani celebrity's protest against xenophobic band
The chair of the TOP 09 party, Miroslav Kalousek, and former Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg recently invited Romani musician Radek Banga and his wife to a friendly lunch. The politicians wanted to express their admiration for Banga's protest against an award being given to the xenophobic band Ortel during the "Czech Nightingale" contest, which he did by walking out of the auditorium during the live broadcast and not being afraid to publicly criticize the entire situation.
Both Radek Banga and his brother Patrik were targeted with death threats and racist attacks after his protest. The editorial offices of the news server Romea.cz, which broke the news of his gesture, have also been verbally threatened with arson by various people on Facebook in that same context.
"We were glad to offer our aid and support during trying times. The hatred he has had to face is a dangerous toxin capable of poisoning all of society. What I appreciate about Radek Banga is that he does not intend to reconcile himself to this atmosphere and is determinedly resisting it," Kalousek posted to his Facebook profile.
After the meeting, Banga expressed appreciation for the interest both political representatives showed him. "We thank you for the support. We greatly appreciate that there are politicians in this country who are not indifferent to the dissemination of hatred," he posted to Facebook.
Banga, a singer, has also been publicly supporteed by, for example, the actor Roman Zach and the winner of the "Czech Nightingale" award in the Discovery of the Year category, Pekař. Support for him was also expressed by Iva Pazderková, Marta Jandová, Ben Cristovao and moderator Jan Tuna.
The singer Anna K. expressed her support for Banga after appearing on a broadcast of the Star Dance program, taking a photo with him and flashing a "V for Victory" sign. "My forebears were in a concentration camp. We can't tolerate fascists in this opinion poll. For God's sake, people, start discussing this, we can't stay silent, we can't applaud this, we can't just sit there and do nothing," Banga told news server Romea.cz.
"Our ancestors would have behaved much more harshly, we can't give our silent consent to this," Banga said, adding that he believes most people in the auditorium during the awards ceremony shared that opinion but were afraid to do something about it. Petr Korál, a music critic, previously said of the Ortel band's lyrics that "This kind of superficial patriotism and latent playing the card of racial and religious intolerance strikes me as unbelievably cheap and embarrassing."
The controversial Ortel band is connected with the right-wing extremist and ultra-right scene. In their lyrics they frequently act out against minorities and the founder of the band, Tomáš Ortel, also established the cult neo-Nazi band Conflict 88 - the number 88 represents a neo-Nazi cryptogram for the greeting "Heil Hitler" (H is the eighth letter of the alphabet).
In the Ortel band, however, the lead singer is now more moderate in his appearances. "He has removed all of the openly 'unhealthy' passages from his lyrics and made sure to wrap his racist, ultra-right opinions in lawful garb. Ortel is known in their songs for anti-Muslim, anti-Romani and homophobic rhetoric, but it is all within the borders of permitted references," the publicist Vojtěch Libich pointed out some time ago.
Since the awards ceremony controversy arose, public broadcaster Czech Television has included footage from a concert by the Ortel music group in the Czech town of Frýdek- Místek during its "168 Hours" program in which several fans of the band give the Nazi salute and shout "Sieg Heil". The footage was captured by documentary filmmmaker Vít Klusák.
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