Czech Republic: Roma to demonstrate against racism in Ostrava tomorrow, neo-Nazis to counter-demonstrate
On Saturday 6 December at 14:00 a demonstration against racism will take place in Ostrava on Svatopluk Čech Square in the Přívoz quarter, followed by a march to Prokešovo Square. At 13:30 neo-Nazis have announced they will be gathering on Prokešovo Square and are convening a counter-protest through neo-Nazi websites and social networks.
The impulse for the Romani community to convene its anti-racist demonstration was an assault committed against a 17-year-old Romani youth who told his rescuers he had been beaten up by a small group of football hooligans in front of a supermarket in the municipal department of Moravská Ostrava a Přívoz. According to the organizers of the anti-racist demonstration, it is now going to be a protest against discrimination of Romani people in education, housing and job-seeking, as well as a protest of how money intended to aid impoverished Romani people is spent.
Later in the afternoon a Romani Congress is scheduled to take place at the Přemysl Pittr Church Primary School. According to information obtained by news server Romea.cz, much will depend on how the security situation directly at the site of the demonstration develops, and it is possible that the march will not go forward, depending on the circumstances.
Imrich Horváth, a Romani youth in Ostrava, had this to say: "Romani people are discriminated in just about every way, they are humiliated and upset. We do not agree with discrimination, or with racism, or with racism being tolerated, or with the way in which money intended to aid Romani people is spent. For God's sake, who has more reason to demonstrate than the Romani people? When else if not now?"
"We have a great deal of experience in holding demonstrations, and Saturday's demonstration will be strictly non-aggressive and non-violent. It will be a demonstration for human rights, in favor of a change for the better, and against discrimination," said Ivanka Čonková of the Konexe organization, which is handling the organizational details.
Some activists, Roma against protesting
Some activists and Romani residents of Ostrava disagree with holding a demonstration tomorrow out of concern that radicalization during the march could lead to Romani people committing violence. Such radicalization is feared, for example, by Kumar Vishwanathan, chair of the Ostrava-based association Life Together (Vzájemné soužití).
Vishwanathan said he does not want to support any actions that might be of a violent nature in any way and believes that an assault on a Romani youth is not a good starting point for an action which, in his opinion, will not just be a protest. "Revenge is no solution. We can protest against racism, that's fine, but it will not help matters if the Roma define themselves in opposition to others in general, which this tense atmosphere is tempting them to do," he told news server Romea.cz previously.
A group of Romani activists around Vladimír Leško is also against convening the demonstration. "I have expressed myself clearly. I will not be going to that demonstration. It is being convened by an organization which is not from Ostrava, and if we were to hold a demonstration, it would look very differently. It is naturally up to each individual whether to participate in the demonstration, but I will not be doing so," Leško told news server Romea.cz.
Neo-Nazis prepare a counter-action
Neo-Nazis do not like the demonstration against racism being convened by Romani residents of Ostrava and are preparing their own counter-action, planning to gather at 13:30 on Prokešovo Square near the New Town Hall. On neo-Nazi wesbites and social networking sites the neo-Nazis are now urging their fellow-travelers to participate tomorrow.
"Armed Gypsies want to provoke the majority in the center of Ostrava. The municipality and police may let themselves be intimidated, but the nationalists never will! We support the call for a counter-action," reads the Facebook profile of the Ostrava cell of the Workers' Youth (Dělnická mládež - DM), which is a "linked" organization of the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS). "We will fully support spontaneous actions against the gypsy demonstration," another neo-Nazi website reads.
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