Czech town of Vítkov readies for neo-Nazi assembly and events opposing it
Municipal leaders and police in the 6 000-strong town of Vítkov (Opava district) are preparing for three assemblies scheduled to take place there on Saturday, 3 August. According to online sources, the police, and the Vítkov town hall, neo-Nazis are planning to march in the town, the Equal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných příležitostí - SRP), which defends the interests of the socially vulnerable, is planning a street meeting there, and the "Let's Block the Marches!" (Blokujeme!) platform has planned an assembly that has been announced by activists from the Konexe organization.
At 13:00 tomorrow on Jan Zajíc Square an assembly will begin that has been organized by the neo-Nazi group Czech Lions (Čeští lvi - ČL) as part of their "Czech Lion Tour" program. The group seems to be a sort of ultra-right People's Militia linked to a new ultra-right party, the Democratic Workers' Party (Demokratická strana pracujících - DSP).
The DSP was founded as a breakaway wing of the ultra-right Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS). In Vítkov the right-wing extremists are planning to march down Wolkerova, Skřivančí pole and Husova Streets.
This anti-Romani march has been convened by Pavel Sládek Matějný, the same person who recently led a group of neo-Nazi street fighters during an anti-Romani demonstration in Duchcov. "This isn't our route, it's our town!" Matějný shouted during that march, after which the right-wing extremists attacked police officers.
The SRP assembly will take place from 12:00 until 17:00 in a small park on Husova Street. The Blokujeme! platform has announced a third assembly starting at 8 AM in almost 20 streets throughout the town.
Those who announced the Blokujeme! assembly wanted to hold their event all day until the evening, but the town hall has permitted them to hold it only until noon, citing security concerns. "Our aim is to be in Vítkov with the local people to support them at this time of crisis when neo-Nazis are marching through their town, and to express our disagreement as citizens with these anti-Romani marches and with open antigypsyism and racism," Alica Heráková, spokesperson for the Blokujeme! platform, told news server Romea.cz.
"The reality is that while our peaceful assembly has been banned, the neo-Nazis are being allowed to march in front of Romani homes," Heráková said. "We are looking for another way to adjust to that situation. Our unequivocal aim is not to leave the local people in the lurch."
Mayor of Vítkov Pavel Smolka said garbage cans will be removed from assembly sites and that parking will be banned in some places, such as on Jan Zajíc Square, starting at midnight Friday evening. "We want the roads to be as unobstructed as possible so that there won't be any problems or property damage," Smolka said.
The mayor has called on local residents to take a prudent approach toward tomorrow's event in order to reduce the possibility of injury or property destruction. "We do not believe people should board up their windows, but it probably isn't the most reasonable thing to leave a car in front of a house on a street that is part of the march route," he said.
Police spokesperson Gabriela Holčáková said a larger number of police officers will be on the scene, from regional-level forces and elsewhere, and that a police helicopter will monitor the situation. Officers will check the people and vehicles driving into town.
"We are working on the assumption that an escalation of violence at the scene cannot be ruled out, and we are therefore calling on citizens to avoid unnecessary conflict," Holčáková said. In her view, it is possible that people will participate in this event who have broken the law during previous similar demonstrations elsewhere in the Czech Republic.
Police are not ruling out the possibility that someone in the crowd, perhaps a local onlooker, might instigate an assault. "We will not tolerate any incitement to ethnic intolerance or racism or any violent provocations," Holčáková said.
Vítkov was much discussed in 2009 after an arson attack was committed there during which assailants threw three Molotov cocktails into a small house occupied by a nine-member Romani family. Three people were injured by the subsequent blaze.
A little girl named Natálka, who was not yet two years old at the time, was injured most seriously, suffering burns over 80 % of her body and surviving with lifelong repercussions for her health. Four right-wing extremists were subsequently convicted of the attack and sentenced to either 20 or 22 years in prison.
The mayor says Vítkov does not have greater problems with Romani people than anywhere else, and none of the sort that might attract right-wing extremists to target the town. "There are some problems with the residential hotel. People live there who should not be residing there at all because the facility was not permitted for those purposes. The vast majority of them are Romani, and other problems result from their being concentrated there in greater numbers," Smolka said.
Between 50 - 60 people live at the residential hotel, including many children, and other towns are also addressing difficulties with similar facilities. Smolka says legislators should devote some thought to problems like the operation of residential hotels, because municipalities are unable to resolve the issue on their own.
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