Czech Republic: Racists spreading untruths online about recent brawl in Přerov
In mid-March of this year, a brawl took place between three men in a bar in Přerov, two of them Roma. The non-Roma participant in the conflict, who is 27 years old, suffered serious harm. He was transported to the teaching hospital in Olomouc with severe brain injury and underwent neurosurgery. Yesterday the Czech daily Sedmička reported that the brawl was an ordinary pub fight and that racial motivation did not play a role in it.
The two Roma youths have been charged with committing grievous bodily harm and rioting. The state prosecutor did not support the police motion that they be remanded into custody and they were released on their own recognizance.
News of the Přerov brawl was reported by several statewide media outlets, including the country's most-watched private TV channel, TV Nova, which reported two versions of what happened. The first version, given by a member of the bar's security team, said the two non-Roma men "jumped to the front of the queue and got themselves slaughtered". The second version described the two Roma youths as attacking a seated non-Roma man for no reason.
One-sided, unclear reports of this incident by some media outlets have now been taken up by internet discussants who have begun to speculate about various causes of the conflict, including that it was a racially motivated attack. However, as Sedmička reported yesterday, David Kalina, a representative of district police department command, says police have rejected racial motivation as a cause.
Media have also reported that tensions are rising in Přerov and that right-wing extremists are preparing to march there. Kalina believes such reports are an artificial attempt to incite tensions in the town.
In his interview for Sedmička, Kalina describes the March events in their entirety and refutes rumors of a conspiracy: "Two young men entered the restaurant at the Přerov train station on 14 March at 3 AM to eat. The two other young men who have now been charged were already sitting in the restaurant. All of them were drunk and they got into an argument, which turned into a physical attack. When the fight was over, one 27-year-old man was lying on the floor, injured. One of those who has since been charged tried to help him and started to give him first aid. The injured man, who was conscious, was taken by ambulance to the Přerov hospital and then to the teaching hospital in Olomouc after it was determined that he had suffered a severe head injury. He stayed there for one week. He is currently back at the Přerov hospital."
Kalina also said that if the victim's injuries had not been so serious, the case would have been classified as an ordinary pub brawl. Police handle hundreds of such incidents every year.
Experts say the Roma community in Přerov is rather large compared to other towns in the region. Roma people allegedly comprise 10 % of the not quite 50 000 residents of the town. They are said to have moved to the town during the 1950s and 1960s, mostly from Slovakia, as part of a government program in operation at the time.
Roma people are now concerned that any protest action eventually convened because of this incident could grow into a march by ultra-right radicals like the marches the town has already experienced in recent years. The largest such act of intimidation took place in April 2009. Approximately 400 neo-Nazis went to Přerov and marched along a pre-announced route, led by a member of the Workers' Party presidium, Jiří Švehlík. When the event was over, the neo-Nazis attempted a pogrom on the Roma people living in Husova, Škodova and Kojetínská streets. About 700 police officers fought with them on the streets of the town using a helicopter with thermovision and armed transport carriers.
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