Czech Republic: Demonstrations against racism planned in Duchov, Ostrava and Prague
Romani people in the Czech Republic are planning to respond to a recent assault on a Romani youth in Ostrava through several actions. The youth told his rescuers that he had been attacked and beaten by a small group of football hooligans in front of a supermarket in the municipal department of Moravská Ostrava a Přívoz.
Some originally radical ideas about an anti-racist march through Ostrava have been transformed by cooler heads into an attempt to frame the whole matter as an effort at improving mutual coexistence. For the time being events are planned for three places: Ostrava, Prague, and probably also the town of Duchcov.
Ostrava: A complex situation
In Ostrava the situation is not simple, but the attack on the young Romani man was evidently the proverbial last straw. Many Romani people from Ostrava and elsewhere have the feeling that there is a need to start doing something about it.
The first idea was unequivocal: "We'll hold an anti-racist demonstration and march through Ostrava." An event in that spirit has been announced for Saturday 6 December at 14:00 on Svatopluk Čech Square.
The demonstration will be followed by a march to Prokešovo Square. The Konexe association is arranging the technical side of it and the Facebook invitation says "the event will have a non-violent, peaceful character."
However, some activists and Romani people are concerned that radicalization during such a march could end in Romani people committing violence. According to information obtained by Romea.cz, some Romani people, primarily youth, are radicalizing, and some even want to be armed during the march through the town.
Violence is no solution
Kumar Vishwanathan, the chair of the Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) association in Ostrava, is also concerned about radicalization. He does not want to support any events that could have a violent character in any way.
Vishwanathan said he does not believe an assault on a Romani youth is a good starting point for an action which he believes might not just be a protest. "Revenge is no solution. We can protest against racism, that's fine, but it will not help matters if Romani people start to define themselves in opposition to others as a whole, which the tense atmosphere is tempting them to do," he told news server Romea.cz.
Miroslav Rusenko of the Romani Democratic Party (Romská demokratická strana - RDS) had something similar to say. "If we are protesting against violence, we cannot lower ourselves to using any form of violence. We should primarily be about improving mutual coexistence between people from the majority and the minority. We want to call on everyone to collaborate together on solving these burning problems so the situation in society can begin to improve," he told Romea.cz.
Yesterday a meeting about the demonstration was held between activists and police representatives. This week there will be at least two more such meetings on the topic in Ostrava.
The next meeting will be tomorrow and another is scheduled for Friday after Vishwanathan returns from abroad Thursday evening. It is possible that a march through the streets may not occur and that a conference on the topic of discrimination against Romani people and racism will be held together with the demonstration at the same site.
"In Ostrava Romani people are discriminated against in education, in housing, and on the labor market. That is why we are considering organizing a conference after the demonstration to which we want to invite the mayor of the town, the police leadership, etc. We could also choose our own representatives there to negotiate on our behalf with the municipal department councilors as well as with the city councilors," activist Imrich Horvát said.
Actions in Duchcov and Prague
Andrej Lučka, a famous activist from Rokycany, wants to hold actions against racism in Duchcov and Prague in connection with the assault on the Romani youth. The Prague event is scheduled for Tuesday, 9 December at 11 AM on Wenceslas Square.
A procession will march through the center of Prague and cross the river to demonstrate outside the Office of the Government. The protest will primarily honor the memory of all victims of racism in the Czech Republic, beginning with the racist murders of the 1990s and ending with this most recent attack on the young man from an excluded locality in the Přívoz quarter of Ostrava.
Lučka said he wants to begin planning the Duchcov action by the end of this week at the earliest but does not yet have a more precise idea for it. He said the main reason to hold an action there is the fact that the local Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) formed a governing coalition there with the right-wing extremist Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) as well as the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) after the recent local elections.
"We have to make it clear that it bothers us to see democratic parties coming together with extremists. There is a risk that something like this will be repeated in other towns and villages even though the DSSS demonstrations are supported by neo-Nazis and other antigypsyists," Lučka told news server Romea.cz.
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