Czech Republic: Yet another anti-Romani demonstration planned in Děčín
A brutal assault at the Calipso gaming room in the Old Town of Děčín has become the pretext for an anti-Romani demonstration to be convened there next Wednesday, even though the context of the incident was evidently not racist. The violent aggressor, who has already been apprehended by police, has been scaring both non-Romani and Romani locals for some time.
One Romani local recently filed criminal charges against the man over a previous incident, but police took a lax approach toward pursuing them, which is reportedly the rule when it comes to problems between members of the Romani community there. "Mark my words," Roman Horváth, a long-term Romani resident of Děčín who lives with his family in the Old Town, told news server Romea.cz, "if the police had arrested him in July when he attacked me, this massacre would never have happened."
Three weeks ago the man who has now been arrested because of the street brawl in front of the Calipso gaming room assaulted Horváth in a corridor of his own apartment building; Horváth subsequently filed charges. "First he attacked my brother and was beating him. When I pulled him away and told him to leave my brother alone, he started in on me. He beat my head and ribs, first with his fists, and then he pulled out a collapsible nightstick. I have a four-centimeter long scar on my head from his attack," Horváth said, adding that the man is considered a feared aggressor and fighter among the Romani community in Děčín.
The assailant was reportedly on probation at the time of these most recent incidents. "That guy will beat up anyone, it doesn't matter whether they are Romani or white," Horváth emphasized, "but in the newspapers they have blown this out of proportion and are saying it was a racist crime. Romani people are now afraid to walk on the streets in this town. They are afraid for their children. This is the worst thing that could have happened."
Horváth also pointed out that when police officers address conflicts between Romani people, they take a very lax approach to them. "A couple of days after I filed charges, they called to tell me it had just been a misdemeanor," he said, "and I asked them then: Do you want to see someone else become a victim? Well, you see, here we are."
Victim got along well with Romani peopleMore information about the street brawl that has sparked a wave of anti-Romani sentiment in Děčín has been provided to our editors by another member of the Romani community there, Drahomír Radek Horváth, who personally knows the man who was injured in the incident front of the Calipso gaming room. "That's R.V., he's a sailor, we've known each other 25 years. It took more than one assailant, because R.V. has balls and doesn't let people push him around," Drahomír Radek Horváth told news server Romea.cz, adding that the conflict began inside the gaming room.
R.V. reportedly defended himself against the initial attack, but the assailants left for reinforcements and returned to finish the job. "There were about four guys involved, they pushed him to the ground, kicked him, and sliced up his face. It was not an ordinary street brawl, it seems they really wanted to kill him, his entire face was reduced to smithereens," Drahomír Radek Horváth said.
The vast majority of Romani people in Děčín are said to condemn the brutal attack and feel discouraged by it. The injured man got along with local Romani residents very well and had many friends among them.
"We are sorry about this because we know R.V. is a good guy. However, we would be condemning it even if we didn't know him personally," Drahomír Radek Horváth told news server Romea.cz.
The situation in Děčín is literally on edge even though several days have passed since the street brawl. "There have long been tensions between the Roma and whites in Děčín, but this was the last straw. It's an even greater shame that this has happened at a time when some things have finally begun to succeed here. We have Romani police assistants working with the Municipal Police here who have done an excellent job and now that the money for them has run out, their functions are being performed free of charge by 10 to 15 Romani volunteers in their spare time. It's clear that people here are willing to change things for the better, but all it takes is one street brawl like this and everything is lost," said Drahomír Radek Horvath.
The situation in Děčín, where fear and hatred of Romani people is spreading, has been further exacerbated by articles in the local daily paper Děčínský deník, which has been churning out one report after another on the allegedly unsustainable situation allegedly caused by Romani people in the town. In the online discussions posted beneath the articles online, racist and xenophobic remarks abound.
This anti-Romani sentiment has even attracted the infamous con artist and organizer of anti-Romani marches in northern Bohemia, Lukáš Kohout, who has announced he will be holding an anti-Romani demonstration in Děčín on Wednesday, 13 August. Recently the Děčínský deník has informed its readers about the upcoming demonstration more than once and the bad reputation of the organizer has become a target of criticism.
It is difficult at this moment to estimate whether the demonstration will also be attended by promoters of the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnické strany sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) or by ultra-right radicals from other towns in northern Bohemia. The brutal attack by a small group of Romani people in the Calipso gaming room is yet another example of how a violent incident involving either a group of Romani aggressors or a Romani individual can spark an atmosphere of fear and hatred in society, which then spreads among both the majority society and the minority and can ultimately result in more violence targeting Romani people in general.
Everyone in each group is afraid. Everyone is afraid of one another.
This fear then becomes the driver of a continuous growth in mutual hatred and prejudice. It doesn't matter whether those involved are black or white.
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