Czech Republic: Children's fight mischaracterized by media as "Roma gang violence"
The Facebook social network has been circulating a video recording of an aggressive assault by a Romani youth on two schoolchildren in a park in the Czech town of Louny last week. The state police are investigating and have beefed up morning and afternoon patrols around schools there in collaboration with local police, and the Department of Social Affairs and Health Care of the local authority has also begun investigating.
The town leadership has also issued a statement about the incident. News server Romea.cz has been informed that the 15-year-old youth and the schoolchildren had agreed to met in order to settle a dispute that arose over the youth's girlfriend.
The youth brutally attacked the schoolchildren while onlookers (both non-Romani and Romani) filmed the incident. From the video it is apparent that one of the onlookers did his best to prevent the incident, but the others just followed the events as they unfolded.
The assault has sparked a wave of discussion and reactions, and not just on social networks. News server Deník.cz has reported deceptive rumors about the incident as if they were fact, alleging that the "attacker is a member of a gang that demands money from children in the town and beats them up if they don't have any."
That news server speculates that nobody filming the boys who were assaulted stood up for them because the onlookers "apparently were afraid of the entire gang". Such allegations and other speculations calling the case one of a racist attack by Romani youths on while children, or an assault by a group of Romani boys who regularly attack random passers-by, has been rejected by Juraj Jonáš of the local "Center for the Development of Minorities" (Centrum pro rozvoj menšin).
"I know that boy. My daughter and my son go to school with his girlfriend, she is not a Romani girl, and these stories about a racist assault on white boys are absurd. The same goes for the claim that a whole gang of boys is supposed to have attacked them - that guy assaulted them on his own," Jonáš told news server Romea.cz.
According to Jonáš, what lies behind the entire dispute is the boy's attempt to be a hero and protect his girlfriend. "The stories saying there were more of them and that they allegedly demanded protection money from white boys are absolutely absurd. This is one boy with whom are there difficulties," Jonáš said.
The incident is having an impact on the center itself, which some commentators have begun to associate with the attack. "Voices can be heard alleging that our center gets money from the European Union for us to teach 'blacks' to box and that the assailant is our pupil. We teach boxing to all who are interested, non-Roma and Roma, who come to us. We do not get anything from the Union, we pay for everything from our own resources. The boy who attacked was at our center just once, and it was not for boxing, but for circuit training. To associate his assault with the fact that we teach boxing is absurd - moreover, the principles of sportsmanship and the rules of fair play are part of our instruction, and nobody here has gone so far as to use what they have learned in practice, the basics are being taught," said Petr Cirok, who chairs the club that runs the center.
Cirok and Jonáš contacted local police and agreed to meet with the mayor last week. "We wanted to make them aware that we are not indifferent to the recent incident and to offer our collaboration. At the same time, we wanted to explain that the incident did not happen because of our center, that is an absolutely absurd accusation - on the contrary, we work to motivate youth in a preventive sense, we are doing our best to build something up here, we collaborate with primary schools and the Labor Office and we focus on various educational activities," Cirok said.
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