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Czech Republic: Non-Romani people visit Romani neighborhood en masse, police keep the peace

České Budějovice, 22.7.2013 3:39, (ROMEA)

News server iDNES.cz reports that during the early evening of Saturday, 20 July, roughly 200 people gathered on the streets of the Máj housing estate in the town of České Budějovice, which has been the site of anti-Romani demonstrations during previous weeks. Citizens of both Czech and Romani nationality, under the supervision of police, verbally exchanged opinions.

Police officers did not record any incidents of physical assault, racism, or any other illegal behavior. "People from both sides talked with one another, sometimes loudly, sometimes less so, assisted by police officers, in particular members of the anti-conflict team," South Bohemian Regional Police spokesperson Matzner said. 

According to news server Deník.cz, the slogan "Get to work!" was also shouted by the non-Romani people at the Romani residents during the highly tense start of the confrontation. A 60-year-old Romani man who refused to give his name told reporters that he works and that most of the people he knows at the housing estate go to work as well. 

"If we didn't work, we wouldn't be able to live here. This housing isn't free," the Romani resident noted.

Police officers formed a cordon between the two sides and called on everyone present to go home. Some people eventually started to leave the street.

Vítězslav Lád, commander of the police patrol service, said that "In comparison with previous weekends, the situation is calm." One of those demonstrating was 18-year-old Dominika Holzmannová, who lives on M. Chlajna Street.

"It's really unfair here," she said when asked what the main cause of the disagreements between non-Romani and Romani neighbors at Máj is. Her sister, 16-year-old Patricie, said that whenever she takes her younger sibling to the playground and asks Romani people to let her on the swing, they start cursing at her. "I'm mainly afraid in the evening," she said.

Residents have repeatedly said they want more playgrounds at Máj. "A similar number of people are also demanding the already-existing sports fields be closed," Mayor Juraj Thoma said when asked about the request.

Now, however, another playground is slated for construction on V. Volf Street. "There used to be one here, but the Roma would gather there and in the summer it was very noisy, late into the night. After they took the playground out there was peace and quiet," the concierge for one of the prefabricated apartment buildings on V. Volf Street said. 

In order for a similar scenario to be prevented, the new playground will have an administrator to maintain order, but the neighborhood will have to wait several months for it to be installed. The mayor says money for the playground will not be a problem, just the length of time it takes receive building permission.

Another measure will involve relocating benches to other parts of the housing estate. Some of the benches slated for removal are located on J. Benda and V. Volf Streets, where primarily Romani residents use them to gather, allegedly noisily, directly beneath the windows of their neighbors. 

The situation at the Máj housing estate has been tense for almost one month. During the previous three weekends, anti-Romani demonstrations were held in České Budějovice that resulted in attempted marches on the housing estate.

Many dozens of people were detained during the street fighting that accompanied those previous incidents. Hundreds of police were deployed and a total of 10 people have been charged with felonies related to the unrest so far, while another two have been summoned before the municipal administration department on misdemeanor charges. 

The clashes at the housing estate began on 21 June, when children got into a conflict on the playground that was subsequently joined by as many as 100 adults. In response, demonstrations were held on 29 June, 6 July, and 13 July, all involving hundreds of non-Romani demonstrators trying to reach the Máj housing estate and clashing with police.

Experts on extremism say the events in České Budějovice, as well as recent demonstrations in the town of Duchcov, indicate an unfortunate trend, in that the protest actions are far from the domain of the ultra-right alone and are involving ordinary members of the public, including families with children and pensioners, more and more often. These members of the public have been radicalizing their behavior to match the ultra-right extremists, shouting the same slogans as they have and doing their best to break through police cordons by using violence. "It is often difficult to determine who exactly at the demonstration is a member of an organized extremist group," Miroslav Mareš, an expert on extremism and a political scientist at Masaryk University in Brno, pointed out.   


fk, iDNES.cz, Denik.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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České Budějovice, sídliště Máj, Czech republic, Extremism



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