Czech Republic: Three events convened for Sunday in Břeclav, victim of attack rejects collective blame of Romani people
The Břeclav town hall has announced that it is aware that three separate assemblies demanding increased security in the town in support of a brutally beaten 15-year-old boy will take place there on Sunday. The town leadership will not be exploring whether or not to ban any of the assemblies, even though all of them were announced after the legally-required deadline.
One assembly has been convened by the right-wing extremist Workers' Youth association (Dělnická mládež -DM), while the other two have been convened by individuals. Mayor of Břeclav Oldřich Ryšavý (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) made the announcement to the Czech Press Agency yesterday.
By law, an assembly must be announced to the relevant town authorities five days prior to taking place. None of these assemblies were announced within that deadline, so the town hall would be within its rights to ban them all.
"We want to have the situation in the town under control. These events were convened en masse, we do not want to prevent the people who are coming here from exercising their constitutional right to assembly," Ryšavý said. He called on the public not to attend the event convened by right-wing extremists, who evidently will seek to foment anti-Romani sentiment. Hundreds of people are expected to attend the events.
"Anyone out there who thinks he can come to southern Moravia to stir things up is mistaken. We will not allow the law to be broken or order to be disturbed," South Moravian Governor Michal Hašek (ČSSD) told the Czech Press Agency yesterday. He called on Czech Interior Minister Jan Kubice and the government not to risk the country's security through budget cuts and recalled that during the past two years, the South Moravian Region has lost more than 500 state troopers, 60 of them from the Břeclav district and 20 from the town of Břeclav itself.
Břeclav has a population of approximately 27 000 people. It is not clear how many of them are Romani. According to the 2011 census, about 30 people there declared their nationality as Romani, but other estimates say about 1 000 Romani people live in the town. "The process of estimating [Romani population] numbers is a poor one. What is certain is that all of these people now are greatly concerned and are hoping the perpetrators will be apprehended and the matter will be closed," Jaroslav Danihel, Romani Coordinator for the region, told the Czech Press Agency. Pedagogical staff of the Břeclav branch of the IQ Roma servis organization, which works daily with Romani children, are said to have noted increased anxiety among the children and a reduced sense among them of their belonging to Czech society.
Originally, friends of the assaulted boy wanted to organize a demonstration in his support. They called it a "March for Little Peter and Our Security" and announced it by posting a flier on Facebook that included criticism of the Romani community. However, they did not know how to announce the event to the authorities. The right-wing extremist DM, which is linked to the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) and includes neo-Nazi sympathizers, then inserted itself into the equation, officially announcing a protest to authorities, allegedly so as to help with the organizational problems involved in convening the demonstration.
The "March for Little Peter" is now one of three events scheduled for Sunday, the other two being the DM assembly and yet another demonstration. Two of the assemblies were announced for the same location, so the organizers will have to agree for each event to take place elsewhere.
The boy was attacked on Sunday evening by three men, only one of whom he has identified as Romani, saying he never saw the faces of the other two. As a result of his injuries, one of his kidneys had to be removed and his liver is damaged.
The boy's mother said the assailants were not interested in money, because they did not take anything from her son, and that they apparently just wanted to take their aggression out on him. The perpetrators face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
"I don't have any problems with the fact that this event is to be convened by the Workers' Youth. They have a clean slate as far as I am concerned, I don't know them, I won't have an opinion about them until I see the event. I firmly believe it will be dignified," the mother told the Czech Press Agency.
DM and DSSS hate actions often target foreigners, but in this case the mother of the victim is originally from Ukraine. She said she assumed her son would soon be transferred from the hospital's ICU to surgery, as he is doing better and receiving many letters of support. His mother said he is recovering but will need the help of psychologists.
Neither the mother nor her injured son want the protest to become a brawl or an anti-Romani protest. The family said they do not feel hatred for the Romani minority as a whole.
"I am not harboring any hatred for the Romani community, but this is a hard situation. Whenever I see a Romani man, I see him as an attacker, but I believe that will correct itself over time and the police will apprehend the actual perpetrators," the mother said. "Not every Romani person is bad," Petr added.
The attack on the boy has been condemned by numerous Romani organizations as well as by the political leadership of Břeclav and the South Moravian Region. The director of the South Moravian Police, Tomáš Kužel, said detectives are still searching for the perpetrators.
Police patrols in the town have been reinforced. "The police are now preparing very intensively for Sunday's protest," Petra Vedrová, spokesperson for the South Moravian Police, told the Czech Press Agency.
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