Czech Republic: Neo-Nazis outnumbered by counter-protesters at Chanov housing estate by two to one
Ultra-right extremists from the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) and neo-Nazis from the National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO) carried out their provocation today at the Chanov housing estate on the outskirts of Most, which is predominantly occupied by Romani people. Organizers expected between 100 - 200 participants, while other estimates had predicted as many as 300, but in the end the extremists' march was a total debacle, with only 50 -70 ultra-right radicals attending. Approximately 150 Romani people held a disciplined protest against them at the housing estate. News server Romea.cz reported on the events online as they unfolded.
16:12 - Our online reporting from Chanov is over. We will bring you more information in a follow-up article. Thank you for your attention and have a Happy Easter.
16:11 - Police spokesperson Ludmila Světláková summarized the events for news server Romea.cz as follows: "You probably know that the demonstrators have already left Chanov. Right now we are monitoring the situation in front of the train station, where the march made it without incident. We are continuing to monitor the situation at the Chanov housing estate as well. No incidents occurred during the DSSS assembly and march. We did not detain anyone for breaking the law or for weapons possession. We monitored the speeches and we will evaluate them later. We deployed around 200 police officers in the operation, most of them riot police, but others as well. Municipal patrols were prepared as well. All units on duty will be reinforced now."
15:58 - Miroslav Brož of the Hate is No Solution initiative (Nenávist není řešení) considers today's event to have been very successful. "Local Romani residents actively stood up to defend their rights and showed they are not afraid. They actively showed their disagreement with Nazis marching in their neighborhood," Brož told news server Romea.cz. "We provided support, but only where it was absolutely needed. Most of the work was done by the local Romani residents themselves and I applaud them for it," said Brož, who added that he believed the police handled the entire situation well this time and did not behave confrontationally. "The whole thing was like an absurd drama, neo-Nazis holding a concert at Chanov on Easter - but in this tragicomic situation, the local Romani people stood their ground very well," said Brož.
15:57 One resident of the Chanov housing estate, Julius Bango, who organized a cordon of Romani people wearing reflective vests, says the event was a success. He thanked the police for their assistance and coordination: "I am mainly glad that our people stuck together, listened to us, didn't let themselves be provoked, and that nothing happened, that is the most important thing," Bango told Romea.cz.
15:40 Miroslav Kováč of the Equal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných příležitostí) is glad the event turned out well and that the Romani residents remained calm and did not let themselves be provoked. "I just wonder why the police let the demonstrators be separated from the Romani counter-protesters by that cordon of Romani people in reflective vests without any police presence. I know that was what the local Romani organizers asked for, but what if something had happened?" Kováč asked.
15:37 According to the director of the police in Most, Bronislav Schwarz, an agreement is in place that local Romani residents will maintain order. As he told our reporter on the scene, he deputized about 50 Romani residents, who wore reflective vests and ensured the event took place calmly.
15:33 The local daily paper, Mostecký deník, is reporting that the Romani residents of Chanov made the DSSS look ridiculous.
15:16 Local Romani residents are thanking the activists from the Hate is No Solution initiative for their support during the DSSS march. Romani residents have also thanked the police officers present.
15:15 The ultra-right radicals have marched past the assembled Romani residents and have left the housing estate. The local residents were separated from the right-wing extremists once again by a cordon of Romani people wearing reflective vests. Romani residents then assembled inside the community center, where police thanked them for maintaining calm and equilibrium during the DSSS march.
15:05 Our correspondent tells us that the DSSS members have finished their speeches and are planning to march back to the train station. About 100 -150 Romani residents are standing outside around the community center, in visual range of the demonstrators. Julius Bango, a resident, of the Chanov housing estate said they are about 30 meters away. The Romani residents have decided to let them leave the housing estate and intend to create a cordon once more.
15:00 Romani residents are standing about 150 meters away from the place where the DSSS promoters are making speeches. They are listening to their own Romani music and doing their best to ignore the DSSS assembly.
14:51 Czech singer Ladislav Budz, aka Lobo, has performed two songs so far for the DSSS assembly. He is now singing "Angel" by Karel Kryl. He opened his performance by saying he had come to sing to the "Gypsies in Chanov". Romani residents whistled him down.
14:48 Lucie Šlégrová and then Anna Holešínská (DSSS), a town councilor in Krupka, have given speeches. Holešínská said news server Romea.cz disseminates racial intolerance and praised journalist Patrik Banga for his opinions on addressing "the gypsy question".
14:42 Residents of the prefabricated apartment building in front of which the right-wing extremists are making speeches are complaining that the right-wing radicals' noise is disturbing them. Minister Mikuláš Vymětal is doing his best, together with police, to negotiate turning the volume down on the amplifiers. He was not successful, so he went to negotiate directly with the organizers from the DSSS, but they would not accommodate him.
14:32 Now Petr Kotáb is talking about news server Romea.cz. He claims it espouses open racism against the majority.
14:25 Petr Kotáb, chair of the DSSS organization in Ústí Region, is the first speaker. He is delivering slogans similar to those he has used at other assemblies, for example, saying "inadaptables" take apart the buildings at housing estates, etc.
14:15 "We are standing in front of a half-devastated prefab building, about 100 meters from the community center on the edge of the housing estate," our reporter says. The DSSS leadership is getting ready to make their speeches and are setting up their sound system. Romani residents are mocking them from the windows of the apartment buildings, calling to them: "We're drinking to you." Someone from the neo-Nazi crowd calls back "Who's inviting us to coffee?" The atmosphere has continued in that spirit.
14:01 Police spokesperson Ludmila Světláková says there are around 70 people participating in the DSSS event. "Police are on the scene, the purpose of the operation is to maintain order and prevent crime. We will naturally document and monitor the speeches as well. At this moment I cannot respond to your question of whether we might disperse the assembly together with a municipal representative should the law be broken during the speech-giving. In any event we are documenting everything," Světláková told news server Romea.cz.
13:59 The neo-Nazis have arrived at the Chanov housing estate. They were welcomed by loud Romani music being played on both sides of the street. The right-wing radicals are chanting "Gypsies go to work", but they cannot be heard over the music.
13:51 The right-wing extremists are about four minutes away from the housing estate. There are still only about 50 of them. Police officers from the Anti-Conflict Team and riot police are present at the housing estate. Local Romani residents are waiting for the DSSS promoters to show up and are determined to keep their cordon peacefully in place.
13:50 Police spokesperson Ludmila Světláková has told the local daily Mostecký deník that police have not had to address any incidents so far.
13:42 A group of six Romani women has told our correspondent the following: "We are fed up, we had to go through this 15 years ago. We are afraid for our children, that's why most of the women are indoors with them. We don't understand why the town doesn't ban this kind of event, it costs money for the reinforcements that have to be here."
13:40 Our correspondent says everyone is discussing how there must not be any clashes, conflicts, or provocations. The Romani residents want to avoid any scuffles or violence which might result in panic. "They can come here, look around, we'll stand here calmly, we have our vests on and our banners. We just want to show them, in a calm, legal way, that we are here," our correspondent described local Romani residents as saying.
13:37 It seems today's neo-Nazi provocation may be a total fiasco. Only 50 DSSS promoters have set off from the train station for the housing estate, led by Petr Kotáb.
13:22 A huge banner reading "Hate is No Solution" is hanging on one of the prefab apartment buildings at the Chanov housing estate. Another banner reads: "We know your solutions, get out of here". Our correspondent says the Romani flag has also being displayed.
13:21 About 50 local Romani people in reflective vests have started to form a defensive cordon. They do not intend to block the path of the DSSS promoters, just to ensure that everything takes place calmly and that they do not infiltrate into the housing estate any further.
13:18 About five police cars are parked near the train station and 14 officers are standing nearby. There are only about 50 neo-Nazis in the train station hall. DSSS representatives Petr Kotáb and Lucie Šlégrová are there. Šlégrová is currently on trial for promoting Nazism.
13:15 Mikuláš Vymětal, an evangelical minister to youth in Prague, has arrived. "I am here for two reasons. The external reason is that the convent sent me here, so it's a work matter. Lots of us are here to express our support for the local Romani residents. The other reason is internal, personal. Half of my family perished in a concentration camp, that's why I feel obligated to participate in such events," he told our correspondent.
13:11 Activists from Hate is No Solution have set up the sound system. Romani music is resounding through Chanov.
13:08 Another correspondent of ours is standing in front of the train station, where a mob of about 50 neo-Nazis is forming. "They are waiting for one more train," our correspondent says.
13:05 Our reporter is on the scene. "We are now standing in front of the community center at the housing estate. An ecumenical service called 'Easter Greetings for Chanov' has just finished. The service was not just for the Easter holiday, but was also particularly in support of the residents of Chanov," our correspondent reports.
13:01 Miroslav Kováč of the recently-formed Equal Opportunities Party has come to Chanov to support the local residents. "Neo-Nazism and attacks on Romani people have no place in this society today, that's why I came here, to support my people. I don't believe the town should have permitted this event in the middle of a Romani housing estate. In our view, there are serious legal reasons why the town should have prohibited this event. The neo-Nazis called on people to participated in it through the National Resistance website. The event unequivocally targets the Romani minority, who have been concentrated into this housing estate. We don't want to provoke any conflicts, but we do want to show, in a calm way, that this is just not acceptable," Miroslav Kováč told news server Romea.cz.
12:46 Julius Bango, a resident of Chanov, is organizing local people who don't want to stay home today. "We have decided not to stay home, but the children and women definitely will. We are not interested in conflict, but in calm and order. We want to show we are not afraid. We have our banners. Now there are about 100, 150 of us outside. People have also come from elsewhere to support us. We don't want to disrupt the DSSS march, no conflict. We'll just stand there while the march passes by. We want to maintain calm," Bango told news server Romea.cz.
12:40 Ministers Mikuláš Vymětal and Catholic priest Josef Hurt, who was a priest in Most for nine years and who baptized most of the children living at the Chanov housing estate, as well as Marián Šusták of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, are speaking to the Romani residents of Chanov and blessing them. The clergy say the neo-Nazis are desecrating Easter with their hate march.
12:34 The famous artist Laďa Gažiová is also on the scene. Together with three other artists, she has been helping local Romani residents make banners to hang up against today's DSSS action. "We came to support the local people. We want to express support for them and also show that we do not agree at all with the DSSS march", she told news server Romea.cz.
12:06 Three clergy from the Catholic and Evangelical Churches have arrived at the Chanov housing estate to encourage the local Romani residents and lead them in prayer.
11:35 Groups of Romani people are standing around the Chanov housing estate. Banners have been hung from the buildings reading: "This is our home", "Give us work", and "Black, white, let's unite". Other banners are still being made.
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