Czech Republic: Two demonstrations in Šluknov tomorrow
The town of Šluknov will experience two demonstrations tomorrow. Local politicians have convened a demonstration "against crime" on the main square. In another part of town, the civic association Konexe has convened a demonstration "against crime, corruption, clientelism, incompetence, and racism among politicians in the Ústí Region."
It has been almost a year since a "demonstration against crime" took place on the square in the town of Rumburk. That demonstration, convened by local politicians, featured speeches by Czech MP Foldyn, Mayor Sykáček, and Mayor Zoser. The demonstration got out of hand and turned into an aggressive crowd of many hundreds of people marching through Rumburk chanting harshly anti-Romani slogans and doing their best to attack buildings inhabited by Romani people, which were protected by police riot units. It was that demonstration that kicked off several months of anti-Romani unrest in the Šluknov foothills.
"On the basis of last year's events we believe holding a 'demonstration against crime' on the square in Šluknov is like playing with matches in a haystack, and we have therefore convened a gathering in the places where the poorest Romani people live in Šluknov and we believe that in the event of a crisis scenario, the Police will not permit an anti-Romani march into the sites where we have announced our gathering. We hope that situation will not come to pass," explained Miroslav Brož, the spokesperson for Konexe. "We invite everyone to attend our gathering 'against crime, corruption, clientelism, incompetence and racism among the politicians of Ústí Region' who believes Romani people are not responsible for the current state of affairs, but rather that politicians are," Brož said. The gathering will take place tomorrow, Thursday 19 July, at 16:00 on Sídliště street in Šluknov.
"The mayors claim they want to demonstrate against the incompetence of the Government and Prague politicians with respect to helping them address problems in the region. Why don't they demonstrate in Prague in front of the Government headquarters? Why are they demonstrating near the places where Romani people live?" commented Jozef Miker, an activist with Konexe. He went on to say that many residents of Šluknov district automatically understand a demonstration "against crime" as a demonstration against Romani people, and that everyone remembers very well how last year's "demonstration against crime" convened by Lukáš Kohout in Varnsdorf turned out, as did the "demonstration against crime" convened by local politicians in Rumburk.
Martin Šimáček, director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities, which has done its best to help and work in several towns in the Šluknov district, told us today: "We do not consider it auspicious that the mayors organized their event there in particular, and we did our best to talk to them about it, but it was useless. As far as we know, Rumburk is not joining the event, they don't consider it constructive. We will be on the scene to monitor the event, and we will try to intervene should there be conflict, but we can't do more now."
The Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner will be attending a session of the Government tomorrow. Asked for her comment on the mayors' event, she said: "Unfortunately I am concerned there will be more such events now prior to the elections, it's a rewarding populist topic. I consider this unfair on the part of the mayors, but I can't prevent them from doing it. It is not true that we have done nothing in that region. We have prepared a list of everything we have done so far in the Šluknov foothills as background material should we have to issue a press release or should Prime Minister Petr Nečas wish to make a statement. Unfortunately, however, in many instances our efforts have collapsed due to the mayors' lack of interest."
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