Czech Republic: Children's text messages prove incident not one of "Roma gang violence", as media incorrectly reported
The editors of news server Romea.cz have seen copies of the electronic communications between the youths who were recently involved in a public brawl in the town of Louny. The communications conclusively document that reports describing the incident as involving a gang of Romani youths demanding protection money from non-Romani children - the version disseminated by some media outlets (such as Deník.cz) and by some online social network users - is incorrect.
From these communications it is clear that the dispute arose over the assailant's girlfriend, as we reported previously. When Deník.cz reports that this was an attack by a gang collecting protection money, that reporting is inaccurate and misinformed.
Screenshots of the children's communications sent through a messenger application capture the communications that took place on the evening after the assault - the attacker asks one of the boys whom he assaulted if he knows who the attacker is going out with. The victim confirms that he does, and then the boys call each other and speak on the telephone for several minutes.
After the phone call ends, the boys confirm to each other by text message that everything between them is resolved. The reconciliation between them is captured by further communications in which the victim writes that he comprehends the situation as one in which the assailant lost control of himself and says he still wants them to communicate normally in the future.
Text messages sent between the attacker and his other victim also clarify the meaning of the sentence that can be heard in the video footage of the incident which has been misinterpreted as a reference to protection money - "They already paid, leave them alone!". The bystander who says that in the video apparently had promised his fellow pupils that if they paid him he would arrange for the attacker to stand down from the fight.
"He told them 'If you pay me, I will get him to withdraw'," says Juraj Jonáš of the Center for the Development of Minorities in Louny. He and the director of the center, Petr Cirok, met on the morning of the 13th with the director of the Municipal Police, Radek Baláš, the Mayor of Louny, Radovan Šabat, and Vice-Mayor Jan Čermák to discuss the incident.
"We agreed to collaborate with the town, especially in the area of prevention, and on Monday we will have another meeting just with the local police," Jonáš told Romea.cz on the 13th. "Their director, Mr Baláš, told us today at the meeting that as far as he is aware, police have never received any reports of a gang going around town and collecting protection money. This incident was boys messing around, fighting among themselves, and all the other speculations, including the ones that the fight happened because the children refused to loan money for the assailant to buy cigarettes, are absolutely absurd."
Mayor Šabata also believes that the excitement about the incident and the speculations about protection money are disproporionate and exaggerate what actually transpired in the park. "The assault was rather brutal, we decidedly cannot approve of it. It can be seen [from the video] that somebody somewhere must be teaching that youth [how to use violence]. This morning, however, I spoke with Mr Cirok and Mr Jonáš, who explained that this boy does not attend [boxing lessons] at their center, that he has only been there once, and that the children in the collective there did not want him among them. I am glad to have heard from them that they are working with youth correctly," the mayor told Romea.cz.
"I believe the situation will calm down. Louny is not a dangerous town, I believe this was an isolated excess. Police are investigating and I hope all will soon be in order," the mayor said.
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