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David Tišer: Prague club won't let Romani people in, we'll boycott it

Prague, 3.10.2011 21:07, (ROMEA)
Romani and gay rights activist David Tišer.

Six of us - two boys and four girls - tried to get into the Retro club in Prague's Vinohrady neighborhood recently. We walked past the restaurant, where the owner was sitting, and ran into a bouncer on the stairs. The bouncer looked at our identification; it took him a moment to notice there were six us. When he got to the id card of a girl from Plzeň, he started complaining that last week people from Plzeň had made a mess of the club. We asked him what that had to do with us. I also made sure he realized all the rest of us were Praguers.

The bouncer started to make "unobtrusive" comments about us, for example: "There's been a lot of theft here recently", etc. He refused to let us in. He didn't say directly that he wouldn't let us in because we were Romani, but it was clear from his remarks that our ethnicity was the reason. People came and went while he dealt with us; none of them were Romani.

I went to the bar to complain, but the barmaid told me our efforts were useless and we should leave. I wanted her to call the owner, who was sitting at the bar, but he let us know he had no time for us.

I called the police; the officer who arrived claimed from the start that there was nothing he could do. The officer accompanied us to negotiate with the bouncer, who suddenly started to claim that he couldn't let us in because a private birthday party was taking place. I told him he was making that up, because other friends of mine were already inside and knew nothing about any party. His response: "Well, if you have friends there, don't complain that we don't want to let you in because you're Romani."

"My friends are not Romani - we have many friends who aren't," I responded.

The bouncer insisted we could not go in. The police officer said there was nothing he could do because the club is a private business.

While the police officer was there, the bouncer didn't let any other customers (all of them non-Romani) into the club, sticking to his story of an allegedly private birthday party. After the police left, he let everyone "white" into the club. We left.

I am angry because several events have taken place at the Retro, organized both by pro-Roma and Romani associations. Naturally, the owners was paid for the use of his space. Money evidently smells good to him - but when Romani people want to go to his club to have a good time like anyone else, suddenly we aren't good enough.

Next time Retro won't be good enough for us. All those associations and individuals don't have to hold their events there. In Prague there are enough businesses who will appreciate both money and the people who offer it, Roma included.

David Tišer
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