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Czech Republic: Romani people protest against neo-Nazis

Rotava, 30.10.2011 12:29, (ROMEA)

Yesterday afternoon in Rotava (Sokolov district) between 250 and 300 people gathered for an anti-Roma assembly convened by promoters of the extremist Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS). Approximately 100 neo-Nazis from Germany were there as well. The DSSS convened the demonstration for 13:00; officially, the event was described as a "civil rights demonstration" prompted by tensions between local Romani people and other residents.

The extremists marched through the town under police supervision. At around 13:30, about 150 Romani people and other opponents of neo-Nazis also assembled near the march route to counter-protest.

This video shows the neo-Nazi march passing by the Romani counter protest: http://www.romea.cz/romeatv/index.php?id=detail&source=v&vid=http://mm.denik.cz/51/1c/soy_pochod.flv&detail=http://mm.denik.cz/51/1c/soy_pochod.flv

Even though representatives of the Meto Romani integration center did their best to make sure Romani residents either left town for the weekend or stayed inside during the march, our correspondent reports that about 150 Romani people assembled by the march route. "We want to prevent any possible clashes," said the chair of the Meto civic association, Robert Horváth. "We don't want violence and we are recommending local residents not participate in any sort of counter-action," he said prior to the event.

Horváth even did his best to convince Romani people from elsewhere not to travel to Rotava to counter-protest. He did not succeed, as Romani people in the Czech Republic no longer want to just passively watch the racist extremists' provocations.

Štefan Tišer, who went to Rotava with other Romani people to support the local Roma, addressed those assembled. "There are about 150 people here, not only Romani people, and more are coming," our correspondent reported directly from the scene at around 12:30. After 13:00, fans of techno music came to support the Roma and played Romani songs on their sound system.

In the end the neo-Nazis did not set out on their march until just before 15:00. Extremists from the DSSS were waiting for two busloads of German neo-Nazis, which were thoroughly checked by police officers, delaying their arrival. The extremists marched past the assembled Roma; riot police kept the groups apart. When the radicals and other marchers passed by the Roma, shouts and whistles were exchanged, but there were no violent clashes. The right-wing extremists shouted various slogans, including "Nothing but the nation!", to which the Roma responded by chanting "We are the nation!"

The ultra-right radicals carried various banners, such as those reading "Stop Black Racism". Many locals watched the march from their windows, some of them expressing sympathy for the right-wing radicals, others observing in silence. Some Rotava residents also joined the DSSS march.

"About 300 police officers participated in the police measures. We had a full complement of our own regional special forces unit here and several dozen police officers from the special forces unit in Ústí Region. We also had members of the Aliens' Police, an anti-conflict team, detectives, police dogs, the traffic police, and our colleagues from Germany participated as well. In the end there was no need to intervene," Andrea Pomichalová, spokesperson for the Karlovy Vary Police, told the Mediafax press agency.

During the event, police officers confiscated two baseball bats, two golf clubs, and two rug cutters. "We also arrested two people whom we suspect of promoting a movement aimed at suppressing citizens' rights," the police spokesperson said.

The DSSS claims that most of Rotava has been transformed into a ghetto where long-term residents suffer "beneath the terror" of newer residents. "There are constantly disturbances of nighttime quiet, drug issues, shoplifting, threats, vandalism, and primarily physical attacks on our people," the invitation to the event on the website of the right-wing extremists reads. The organizers also mentioned one of of the most recent incidents in the Kavárna restaurant, where local Romani residents allegedly brutally attacked a defenseless person for no reason.

In the town of 3 400, real unemployment stands at 17.5 %, while it is 9.6 % in the region. The Czech Press Agency claims Romani people have been moving into the town. Since the vast majority of them are allegedly without work, they are said to spend their time in the streets. The town recently adopted a controversial decree banning standing around on the streets or placing benches in public areas.

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