Czech Republic: Equal Opportunities Party to protest local-level anti-Romani moves
Several hundred Romani people and others are expected to attend demonstrations convened by the Equal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných příležitostí - SRP) on Friday, 19 October in the towns of Oloví and Rotava in Sokolov district. Organizers of the rallies "For Peaceful Coexistence" say their aim is to address the tense situation in those towns, where many socially deprived citizens live.
The topic of the demonstration in Oloví will be a petition signed by several hundred people against local Romani residents. The petition calls on the municipality to purchase a particular property (a 33-apartment structure) and for local authorities to then evict Romani tenants from that housing so they will leave town.
"We will definitely discuss the petition there. We also want to inspire Romani people there to behave reasonably and abide by the law. They should not ignore this petition," SRP chair Štefan Tišer said.
In Rotava, the demonstration will address a recently adopted municipal decree which bans leaning, sitting, standing, or walking on parts of constructions (concrete traffic barriers, concrete trash receptacles, fencing) that are town property. It also bans obstructing public spaces with objects (benches, chairs, sofas and other furniture intended for seating, tables, grills, blankets and similar textiles) without town permission, as such activities could disturb public order in the village or contravene good morals and the protection of health, property and safety.
"The petition against Romani people in Oloví and the decree in Rotava remind me of the time just before the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, i.e., the Second Republic, when the authorities began imprisoning Romani people in what were called disciplinary or labor camps. Instead of writing decrees like this, the town hall should work closely with Romani residents. They should first seek out the natural authority figures in the local Romani community. Repression never resolves anything in relation to Romani people," Čeněk Růžička, a member of the SRP leadership, told news server Romea.cz.
"That decree borders on illegality and is strictly aimed at Romani citizens. It contravenes the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. People's freedom cannot be usurped like this in a democratic state. However, it is not our intention to foment conflict of any kind. We don't intend to hold a harsh demonstration. We want our assembly to be pragmatic. We will deliver our challenges to local politicians along with our standpoint and our suggestions for how to resolve this specific situation," Tišer said.
The party intends to select Romani leaders in both towns to pay attention to maintaining good relations with their majority-society fellow citizens. "Specific names will come out of the discussion with the citizens. We will exhort local members of the Romani minority to choose their own local representatives," Tišer said.
In Rotava the demonstration will take place at 10 AM in front of the town hall. The demonstrators will then move on to Oloví in the afternoon. "They announced to us that they will gather at 14:00 in front of the town hall and march to Horní square," Mayor Miroslav Filandr of Oloví clarified.
"The police know about these demonstrations. They are properly announced events and we will be taking the relevant measures regarding them," said Andrea Kávová, spokesperson for the regional police.
Representatives of both towns consider the timing of the demonstration to be inappropriate. The second round of voting for the Senate will take place in the district that same day.
"We cannot prevent these gatherings. Unfortunately, it never occurred to anyone that events like this should not be held when polls are underway, and definitely not in the vicinity of public buildings," Mayor Iva Kalátová of Rotava commented.
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