Czech protest march over flamingo killing cancelled, meeting with local officials to be held instead
The march through the Czech town of Jihlava that was supposed to take place in response to young Romani children stoning a flamingo to death in the zoo there will not take place after all. Organizers ultimately canceled it out of concern that it would become a platform for racist and xenophobic speech.
Instead, a meeting will be held between municipal representatives and the public with journalists present. Organizers of the march announced the change on Facebook.
"Given our consideration of the situation and several meetings we have held, including with the Police of the Czech Republic, we have come to the conclusion that a march would involve a very high security risk, and another reason is that some people have already accused us of being racists and xenophobes. Instead of a march, therefore, we are working on holding a public meeting with town representatives to which journalists will also be invited. We will publish all the details once they are negotiated with all parties. We thank you for your understanding," organizers posted to the Facebook page of the march.
News server Lidovky.cz reports that organizer Erik Mesarče believes there is a danger that people with hateful opinions and right-wing extremists would also attend the event in order to score political points, as news server Romea.cz previously warned. The fact that extremists and racists wanted to participate in the event was clear from some of the posts to the Facebook page of the march.
"What are you trying to prove?! You should have thrown them to the hyenas. You all in Jihlava are angry, but you won't put your town in order. When they're rolling around by the fountain, and their young are running all around the McDonald's, how many of you give them a spanking? If you tolerate that there, don't be surprised!" a Facebook user under the name of Jaroslav Alexandr Dvořák, whose photograph includes a logo for the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" group led by extremist Tomio Okamura, has posted to the event.
While the march organizers have objected to characterizations of their event as anti-Romani, they have also indicated that they believe the children's ethnicity played a role in their behavior. Erik Mersače has stated more than once that the march was not just about support for the Jihlava Zoo, but to protest the poor security situation in the town, which he connected wtih Romani people in particular.
"We see how they send their children to steal in the CityPark, what kind of a mess they make in the town center, their assaults on residents, these attacks at the zoo - they know nothing will happen to them, and that's why they're so cheeky, already from a very young age, just look at this last case at the zoo," he posted online. The incident itself happened last week on a Friday just after noon.
The children's actions were captured on video footage and the breeders removed as many as 30 rocks from the flamingo area. Four hours later, zoologist Richard Viduna posted to his own Facebook profile a status updated with a photograph of the dead animal where he wrote following, among other things: "The consequence of today's 'little game with rocks' played by three of the dispossessed offspring of our 'long since fully-integrated fellow citizens' who snuck into the zoo."
Even though Viduna added a clause stating that he would erase any hateful commentaries, his post began to immediately spread online organically, many articles were written about it, and the ethnicity of the children was the primary topic of the online comment. Emotions sparked by the incident immediately spun the wheel of hatred against the entire Romani community.
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