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Czech Republic: "Lukáš Kohout Fan Club" gathers in Rumburk

Rumburk, 2.10.2011 13:41, (ROMEA)
Yesterday in Prague convicted con artist Lukáš Kohout was not too happy. The demonstrations through which he has been receiving regular publicity, are not drawing that many people... (PHOTO:  Lukáš Houdek)

This morning's anti-Roma demonstration in Rumburk took place without much interest being shown by local residents. Approximately 50 people attended to listen to a 20-minute speech against the town leadership by Lukáš Kohout, the convicted con artist who convened the demonstration.

Kohout also mentioned Rumburk resident Josef Mašín in his speech, the man who had previously organized protests in the town but has since stopped doing so. Kohout first criticized Mašín before "thanking" him.

Another anti-Roma demonstration is scheduled to take place at 14:00 today in Varnsdorf. This is the sixth weekend in a row that such demonstrations have been held in the Šluknov foothills.

The rally in Rumburk was convened at almost the last possible minute. Even though the town hall accepted that it would take place, the leadership issued a statement condemning it and calling on residents not to participate, alleging that the organizer is only interested in publicity and in stirring up a situation which has already calmed down to a great degree.

News server Deník.cz reports that Lukáš Kohout said the following during his speech: "Mašín should put his own house in order." He later added: "We thank Josef Mašín for taking such beautiful care of Rumburk." After roughly half an hour the demonstration ended and several individuals asked Lukáš Kohout for his autograph.

Tensions in the relatively poor area have been rising since mid-August, when two brawls between ethnic Czechs and Romani people took place. The first demonstration in Rumburk, convened by Mašín, turned into a series of riots outside Romani homes. After that first rally, which was attended by about 1 500 people, Mašín stayed quiet and the protests shifted to the town of Varnsdorf. He then announced a second demonstration in Rumburk last week, but canceled it after being called upon to do so by a local politician. Kohout was most critical of the Rumburk town leadership in his remarks today.

This is the sixth weekend in a row that such protests have been held in Šluknov district. Police did not publicize the exact number of officers they deployed, speaking only of "hundreds". Over the course of the past few weeks, deployment numbers have varied from 300 to 700. Right-wing radicals were not expected to participate in large numbers today.

Activists with the "Hate is No Solution" initiative will be on the scene today as well. Last week they visited Romani tenants in the residential hotels in Varnsdorf that the demonstrators have been marching on. Miroslav Brož, spokesperson for the initiative, said their team includes a person trained to handle crisis situations, a psychologist, and a social worker.

"We are providing psychosocial assistance to the tenants of the residential hotels, in particular the children. These protests, during which mobs besiege the buildings shouting anti-Roma slogans, are very traumatizing experiences for them most of all," Brož said.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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