Czech town discusses "inadaptable" residents and planned repression
"Public meeting with citizens about safety in the town, coexistence with inadaptables and welfare for housing" was the name of an event that took place on the evening of Tuesday, 2 September in the Grand Hall of Jablonec's Eurocenter, attended by roughly 300 people. Those invited included local residents, politicians, representatives of the municipal and state police, representatives of the Regional Hygiene Stations and the Building Works Authority.
Unfortunately, only four members of the Romani community attended the meeting. The speakers included Czech Senator Jaroslav Zeman and his advisor Ivana Řápková, both of whom spent time commenting on Parliament's procedures for negotiating and adopting legislation.
"The former Jizera building, the Old Post Office, the former pharmacy and other buildings are occupied by people who live there in very poor conditions while paying rents on the level of luxury housing. Some would-be entrepreneurs are just turning this into a business and counting on the state helping these people with their rent through the housing benefit. However, the town has very limited powers to prevent this. There is a need to pressure Parliament to change these laws and enforce other ones," the mayor told the meeting at the Eurocenter hall.
Radoslav Dani, who lives in the Old Post Office building, said the reason for the excitement over the properties is that they are in the town center, which means their inhabitants are frequently seen by other locals. "For example, when young people are loud, when they sit on the outdoor benches, that's a provocation to the other residents," Dani told news server Romea.cz.
Dani did not attend the public meeting because he didn't hear about it beforehand. One of the four Romani locals who did attend was Ladislav Cina.
Mr Cina was a field social worker for the town of Jablonec for nine years. In his view, the low participation of Romani people at the meeting was caused by poor advertising of the event, because the announcement of it was posted only on the town's website.
"Yes, there are individuals there whose behavior isn't good. Those people are indifferent to the environment they live in, but that can't be generalized to everyone in the whole building, or even to their families. Romani people living in the center of town are a thorn in the side of the citizens of Jablonec, otherwise nothing unusual is going on there," Cina told news server Romea.cz.
The town is planning to alter its ordinances on fines and its lawyers are currently working on that. The mayor said the aim was for people who don't pay fines assessed for misdemeanors to work them off through community service.
"I don't like it that the entire meeting was focused on Romani people," Cina told news server Romea.cz. He recently attempted to suggest to the mayor that he meet with local Roma, but the mayor said such a meeting had to be public.
Ultimately a public meeting was organized in the town without the participation of those being discussed. No Romani people living in the criticized buildings were invited to address the meeting, nor were the landlords.
"Many things are limited by the laws. Police officers here can't act like sheriffs and just shoot the bad guys on the spot. These people may be noisy, they may wander around town at loose ends, but they aren't breaking any legal norms. Moreover, people often never call the police to report illegal behavior or misdemeanors, and that's wrong," the mayor said.
One of the racist proposals made at the public meeting by a local resident was "The town should buy the buildings back and evict the Roma from the center." The mayor's presentaton indicated that the current strategy is one of frequent monitoring by the Regional Hygienic Station, by the town's social department, and by other units such as the municipal police, and that should the criticized buildings stop leasing their units, for whatever reason, the town would quickly act to get rid of the "residential hotels."
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