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Czech petition protests Romani people near mall in Hradec Králové

Hradec Králové, 11.3.2014 17:26, (ROMEA)
The Atrium shopping center in Hradec Králové.
The Atrium shopping center in Hradec Králové.

Some citizens of the Czech town of Hradec Králové are reportedly bothered by the presence of Romani people near the Atrium mall. The manager of the shopping center was the first to send a letter to the town hall asking them to do something about it. 

Her letter was followed by a petition claiming that Romani people are making shopping at the mall an unpleasant experience. The town hall is planning to buy CCTV cameras to better monitor the locality and to add two crime prevention assistants to the local police force, but not everyone shares the view of those who wrote the petition.

Lenka Valentová, the manager of Atrium, wrote a letter to the mayor calling upon him to act. She is primarily bothered by the fact that Romani people gather in front of the shopping center, saying it deters customers.

"They don't buy anything, they just have a good time at a very loud volume, the children are running all around, the older people smoke cigarettes on the stairs, and they prevent shoppers from entering... they practice martial arts near the elevators, they dance and play football in the passageway between us and Tesco," said Valentová, adding that as long as people are on the shopping center's property, security can deal with them and eject them from Atrium for breaking the rules.     

"The Police of the Czech Republic is also dedicating increased attention to the problem," said Lenka Burýšková, spokesperson for the Hradec Králové Regional Police. "We are doing our best to maintain order at Atrium, we are collaborating with the municipal police and with the town hall."   

"The area around Atrium is part of our daily enforcement work. We are monitoring the situation there," confirmed Eva Čížková, spokesperson for the municipal police. 

"The town has requested financing for two crime prevention assistants to aid police in that locality. The request is in the approval phase and we don't have the results yet. It includes financing for the acquisition of five CCTV cameras, which will significantly aid our monitoring of the locality," said Magdalena Vlčková, spokesperson for the town hall. 

The wave of grudges against Romani people was continued by a petition calling for a "permanent law enforcement presence at the Atrium in Hradec Králové" which has been signed by more than 780 citizens. The author of the petition, Jaromír Smrček, is promising to deliver it to the town hall. 

The petition describes "disruptive behavior by inadaptable citizens, who, if they are older, shout loudly and disturb the general peace, and if they are younger, run around completely without supervision and wreak havoc without their parents paying any attention whatsoever, making it an unpleasant experience when one decides to shop at Atrium." The petition asks the town to introduce permanent law enforcement at the shopping center.    

According to online discussions beneath several news articles about the situation, the wave of concern on the part of the majority population was sparked by Romani people's behavior around the Atrium mall. However, opinions have also been posted to those discussions that describe the situation in the town differently. 

A stormy discussion also developed online directly beneath the petition itself. Website administrators erased the discussion during the course of one day and also removed the link to it from their Facebook page.

"I live near Atrium and every day I see a group of Romani people sitting around Atrium and Tesco drinking, smoking and wreaking havoc. Evidently their children don't even attend school," read the opinion posted by Miroslav Seibert.

"I like going to Hradec Králové, but I steer clear of Atrium, mainly when it starts getting dark. I am not interested in hearing racially-motivated insults from Romani people about my non-Romani origins," wrote Barbora Nečasová. 

"Hradec Králové, which has stayed out of all the racially-motivated demonstrations, marches, and other anti-Romani enterprises - mainly because there have never been and are not any problems with Romani people there - is suddenly riding the same wave as the one that brought us the Czech Lions and others of their ilk," posted one blogger in an article entitled "A gypsy's going by, don't look at him" which very accurately captures the mass dissemination of fear and reinforcement of intolerance in these online discussions, where people describe their fellow citizens as pure evil and promote stereotypical views of Romani people as social parasites who get everything for free.  

"A 130 kg Gypsy wearing a gold chain doesn't hang out at the mall, he parks his Mercedes by the unemployment office so he can get his generous welfare benefits and take them to his apartment... which he got for free from the town, just like he gets his free ibuprofen at the pharmacy and his free tickets to the public pool," wrote the blogger, ironically referencing all of the stereotypes about Romani people's alleged privileges currently in circulation in Czech society.

"After a few working visits to Atrium in Hradec Králové I got the impression that I have a deterrent effect on Romani people. There were either none there, or if there were some, they didn't do anything to make me aware of their presence. I hereby offer Atrium manager Lenka Valentová my services," wrote the blogger.  


e-petice.cz, hradecky.denik.cz, iDnes.cz, zelenafretka.com, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Hradec Králové, Petice, Romové, situace ve společnosti



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