Czech Republic: Violence against homeless people rises
Romani people are not the only targets for violence in Czech society - the recent deterioration in the societal atmosphere is also being felt by homeless people. The assault on two homeless people in Olomouc this past Monday is not the only such recent crime, and hatred against homeless people is on the rise. Let's look at some of the cases from this year.
The two attacks committed against homeless people in Olomouc this past Monday brought the number of such attacks in that town this year to four. The incidents took place late Sunday night and early Monday morning in the Bezručový sady park in Olomouc and are being investigated by police. They took place in a broken-down greenhouse where the homeless people were residing.
A 31-year-old man bleeding from the head sought the assistance of municipal patrol officers after midnight. "He said he had been assaulted in his sleep in Bezručový sady by two men unknown to him. After that a 48-year-old man from Olomouc turned up and reported he had also been assaulted by two men in his sleep whom he claimed wanted to burn down the entire greenhouse," said Olomouc Police spokesperson Magda Václavíková.
Václavíková said police found burning cardboard at the scene of the attack, which they put out. "Emergency medical responders were called to the scene and the injured man was transferred into their care. We are investigating the whole incident," she said.
Last week four men attacked a homeless man on Svoboda Avenue in Olomouc. The victim suffered bruising and cuts. Police have apprehended suspects, reportedly thanks to the town's CCTV system. The men are said to have attacked the homeless man because he allegedly bothered them.
At the end of May, police in Olomouc intervened on Dolní Square, where they found a 45-year-old man bleeding with numerous bruises whose eyes had been assaulted with pepper spray. They later apprehended a young suspect who confessed to the attack. The homeless man ended up in the operating room with a serious head injury.
Petr Princ, the head of the Samaritans at Caritas Olomouc, told Deník.cz that "the mood in society is getting more tense. All homeless people who turn to us have our help and our trust. We are doing our work continually and systematically."
In Ústí nad Labem on 25 June, the Hotel Máj, usually occupied by about 10 homeless people, was burned down. It was the second extensive blaze to occur in the devastated building during the past month. By all indications someone has been setting the hotel on fire intentionally. There was almost nothing left to destroy in it; all eight floors caught fire.
"Since more than one floor burned at once during both incidents, it can be presumed that there was more than one starting point for the fires," said Lukáš Marvan, a spokesperson for the firefighters. Electricity to the building had long been shut off, so there is no chance the fire was started by a short-circuit. Firefighters found two bottles of propane-butane mix on the seventh floor after the most recent incident.
No one was in the hotel during the most recent blaze. During colder weather it is usually occupied by homeless people. They use coal-burning stoves for heat and even installed a chimney that extended across several floors of the hotel's exterior.
Police spokesperson Veronika Hyšplerová has confirmed that police will not be investigating the blaze. "We have logged the case, but since what burned was just garbage, we are not investigating. The structural engineer has closed the building for safety reasons," she said.
On Saturday 23 June, in the Prague neighborhood of Libuše, municipal police patrols beat to death a dog belonging to a homeless man. During the incident, one patrolman is alleged to have brutally kicked and strangled the dog, which was tied up to a fence, while his colleague restrained the animal's owner, a local homeless man, according to eyewitnesses. The police operator of the CCTV system installed on a nearby apartment building watched the entire skirmish and sent another police unit to the scene, which later arrested the patrolmen involved. "Detectives have charged two municipal police patrolmen with the crimes of abusing an animal and abusing their official authority," said Jana Rösslerová, spokesperson for the Prague Police.
The patrolmen are said to have been removed from street duty and to have had their weapons confiscated. Municipal Police management has assigned them to other work. One has taken sick leave, and news server iDNES.cz has reported that the dog bit him. However, it is not yet clear whether the dog bit the patrolman prior to their "brawl" or during it. Should they be convicted of the charges against them, both patrolmen could go to prison for up to three years.
The three youths who have admitted to murdering a Romani woman this past January in the Jarov neighborhood in Prague 3 regularly mugged people in the quarter, most often homeless ones. They beat the woman to death; the main perpetrator not only punched and kicked her, mostly in the head, but also stabbed her. Should he be convicted of his crime he could be sent to prison for between 15 and 20 years or for life. The other two assailants face 10-year sentences.
According to people who live near the scene of the crime, the youths had attacked homeless people before, as well as anyone else they felt like assaulting. The victimized homeless people say their assailants are sympathizers of right-wing extremist movements who give the Nazi salute on the streets. Other local residents have confirmed that description.
"They assaulted me when I was walking my dog. They sat around on the benches here drinking cheap wine, and I know they said racist stuff. Once I walked past them with my neighbor, who was listening to music on his mobile phone, and they immediately attacked us. They even threatened to punch me in the face. I defended myself verbally, as I teach my students to do. One was older and stronger, the others were smaller and younger. I went to elementary school with one of them, he was in a remedial class," one local man told Romea.cz.
"Homeless people are classic victims of hate violence. They are attacked because of who they are, because they have the social status of outsiders. Hate violence against the homeless community is becoming more frequent. In many cases it reaches levels of extraordinary brutality. The perpetrators are usually 'on a mission', people who consider their assaults on homeless people to be justifiable, even welcomed, performed to benefit all of society," Klára Kalibová of the In IUSTITIA organization told news server Romea.cz. The organization provides legal aid to victims of hate violence.
"From the legal point of view, an assault on a homeless person can be considered an aggravated circumstance. Persons without shelter generally have a very hard time accessing justice. They don't know their rights, they don't trust the justice system or the police, they fear the perpetrators will take revenge against them, they can't afford legal aid. People whose health is harmed or who suffer either non-pecuniary or pecuniary damages as a result of a crime can seek compensation for those damages against the perpetrators," said Kalibová.
- Czech Agency for Social Inclusion accuses paper of anti-Romani campaign
- Help Romea.cz win support from Vodafone
- Czech Republic and "gypsies" - 1938 vs. 2012
- Czech Republic: Equal Opportunities Party to protest local-level anti-Romani moves
- Czech mayor: Romani people face lynching unless rape suspect taken into custody
- Czech municipality gets tough on Ostrava ghetto residents again
- Czech Republic: Proud Romani students in IT, medicine, and natural sciences
- Prosecutor: Czechs started last year's brawl with Romani people in Rumburk
- Roma Pride 2012 marches through the center of Prague
- Czech Republic: 70 ultra-rightists march on Romani neighborhood
- Czech Republic: Project commemorates postwar Romani labor
- European experts compare experiences working in socially excluded localities