Czech Republic: Anti-Roma demonstration canceled to no avail
Last Friday a square in Varnsdorf became the site of a meeting of about 60 people who had come to call on the municipality to start concerning itself with crime and with the fact that Romani people are being moved out of towns all over the country and into the Šluknov foothills. The Šluknov Development Association (Sdružení pro rozvoj Šluknovska) has also written a letter to Czech PM Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats - ODS) demanding that he assist with the security situation there.
According to Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna (ČSSD) of Děčín region, something must be done as soon as possible in the Šluknov foothills. Speaking after a meeting of mayors and MPs from the region, he warned that people might start believing radical political parties or taking justice into their own hands. Foldyna said it was good news that Nečas has promised more money to the police and that introducing police assistants could be another solution. "Such people could be out in the morning at crosswalks and intersections reporting on problems and freeing up the police for more important things," Foldyna said. The mayors of towns in the Šluknov foothills have agreed that patrolmen from various towns will help one another and travel together to the scenes of conflicts.
The demonstration on the square in Varnsdorf was originally convened by Lukáš Kohout, a member of the Young Social Democrats (Mladí sociální demokratí - MSD). Concerned that radicals might join it, Kohout then canceled the event, but people came to the spot anyway to demand a solution.
Czech daily Mf DNES reported that Kohout was previously convicted and sentenced for misappropriating funds from the Czech Foreign Ministry. The daily reported that during the trial his nickname was "Kavan's flying assistant".
Mayor Martin Louka spoke to those demonstrating and demanding the municipality address their untenable situation. He asked them to disperse and said the town hall would be convening a public meeting within the next 10 days to debate crime and residents' problems.
"Why should we hide ourselves away at some meeting somewhere?! We're here to address this situation immediately," one of the women present shouted at the mayor.
Others warned that the quality of life in the town has greatly deteriorated. "You can't even go for a walk in some localities, the Roma yell at us that it's their territory and we have no business there. Where am I talking about? The area around the Sport is the worst! I could name other residential hotels," a 50-year-old man vented.
Another woman called out that she had to drive her children to school and to their hobby circles and can't send them anywhere alone in town. She is afraid what might happen to them.
Several police patrols monitored the meeting on the square and an anti-conflict team was also present. Police were there because Kohout feared radicals from northern Bohemia and nearby Saxony in Germany would also attend. In addition to other problems, their attendance would have been a reason to disperse the event. However, Kohout himself might have sparked a conflict by calling the radicals and telling them not to come to Varnsdorf - essentially informing them of the event.
In the end, only a few individuals from the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strany sociální spravedlnosti -DSSS) attended, and they stood by calmly. "The radicals would have invited themselves anyway, it doesn't matter whether I asked them not to come," Kohout says.
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