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Ida Kelarová: Czech Police did not come when we called the emergency line - they neither helped nor protected the children

12.9.2016 7:28
Romani musician Ida Kelarová, Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  Miret, z.s.)
Romani musician Ida Kelarová, Czech Republic. (PHOTO: Miret, z.s.)

Ida Kelarová disagrees with some of the conclusions drawn by the internal affairs department of the Ústecký Regional Police Department and is shocked by how the Czech Police are introducing confusion into the description of how she and others reported the aggressive, racist behavior of a resident of Jiřetín pod Jedlovou against those attending her "Romano drom" summer arts school from 30 July - 13 August there in collaboration with the world-famous Czech Philharmonic. "I insist that the police never came to investigate after we reported the incidents by calling the 158 number," she told news server Romea.cz on 10 September.

"We believe the police are doing their best to create ambiguity and bafflement about this entire matter so people will begin to be confused about the case and will stop taking an interest in it. However, at a minimum, I personally want to receive an explanation - not just as the person responsible for dozens of children in the Čhavorenge choir, but also as a citizen of the Czech Republic - as to why the police did not come to the scene when I called the 158 number?" Kelarová said.

The following is a summary of the incidents and the police response. The "Romano drom" summer arts school was being held at the recreation facility "Pod Jedlovou" and was disrupted by a man living in a neighboring house during two separate incidents.

During the first incident on Thursday, 4 August, the man fired a weapon into the air as the children were returning from playing a treasure-hunting game at the camp. "It was around 21:30 and the children were returning along the public road past the neighbor's house," Kelarová said.

"The children were understandably in high spirits, so they were whooping with delight, but of course it only took them about a minute to run past that house. The gentleman living there sprang to his feet and began to shout at them (and here I apologize for the vulgarisms): 'You black Gypsies!', 'F**k off!', etc. Then he fired his gun into the air," Kelarová said.

The choir director said the neighbor fired his gun three more times on Saturday, 6 August at around 8:30, then burst onto the grounds of the recreation facility, where he shouted racist insults at Romani musician Desideria Dužda and did his best to provoke an altercation. As Kelarová stated in a previous interview for news server Romea.cz, she never claimed to have called police after the first incident on Thursday, 4 August.

"The other adult colleagues and I decided not to resolve the incident with police involvement; we did not want to spoil what had been a beautiful, joyful evening for the children - the feeling, that after completing their eight-hour treasure hunt they had managed to do something they could never have imagined before - by having police arrive to interrogate the children and the organizers into the night. At that point we were under the impression that police would come to the scene if we were to report an incident of that kind," the choir director explained.

Kelarová is of the opinion that police are attempting to sow confusion about the entire matter on exactly that point. "The police, through their spokesperson, are saying they have no record of any calls [from us] from Jiřetín pod Jedlovou to the 158 number from the evening of 4 August to 9:27 AM on 6 August. That is certainly true... However, what is essential to this entire thing is that we called the 158 number on Saturday 6 August after 9:30 AM, and I don't get why the police have not reported that! Why did the spokesperson describe the time of calls that they reviewed up until '9:27 AM on 6 August 2016'? Why not up until 10:00 AM? Probably because then they would have no choice but to mention our phone call to the 158 number," Kelarová believes.

The police statement about the outcome of its internal investigation also does not mention the circumstances under which Kelarová used the 158 number. After the Saturday morning incident - the three warning shots and the assault on Desideria Dužda – the owner of the recreation facility drove into Varnsdorf to the police station to report the alarming behavior of the neighbor, and Kelarová said the owner promised to resolve all of the conflicts with that individual.

When, however, Kelarová called the owner of the facility on his mobile phone and asked to speak with a local police officer, that officer dismissed her, saying "We have our procedures," and hung up the call without further explanation. It was not until after this display of "lack of interest by the Varnsdorf Police in aiding us with actually resolving the entire incident" that the choir director called the 158 number.

"The Police motto is 'Help and Protect'. Maybe. Of course, the Varnsdorf Police doesn't follow that motto. They did not help us and they did not come to protect us. They just told us that they have their procedures. I would like to believe the police, but is it possible to have confidence in them after this experience?" she asks. 

Kelarová:  "Isn't it absurd that when weapons have been fired in front of children the police don't even send a patrol to the scene?"

The police further state that the first person to report the incident of gunfire at the Romano drom summer school was the neighbor himself. Kelarová mentioned that in her first interview for news server Romea.cz.

The choir director believes the neighbor apparently called police after realizing that he had gone too far with his gunshots and his attack on Dezideria Dužda. "As the neighbor told the RESPEKT weekly, he came home on Saturday at 8:30 AM for a break between work shifts, and when he got near our facility, he was provoked by the music we were playing for the children to exercise to - in other words, it is not the case that the music was disrupting him inside his home. After the incident, he went back to work. As for those three gunshots on Saturday, the neighbor told both the media and the police that he was training his dog by firing the weapon, but what sense does it make to leave your job, come back home, fire your gun in the air as part of training your dog, and then leave again?" she asks.

"I feel bad for the dog if its master is training it like that," the choir director said. "By the way, it's been a long time since I have heard a dog howl as plaintively as that dog was howling in the neighborhood of our facility."

Kelarová also disputes the statement of the police spokesperson that "the police immediately investigated the case and were in contact with all parties to the  conflict", stating that those who were victims of the attacks had to all but force their way into the police station in Varnsdorf in order to give statements. Varnsdorf Police officer Josef Harák allegedly welcomed the victims by saying "Let's not turn this into a big Western".

"Is that what the police call 'immediately investigating and contacting all parties'?" the choir director asked. "Isn't it absurd that when weapons have been fired in front of children, the police don't even send a patrol to the scene, even though a stranger has burst into a recreation facility and assaulted people with racist abuse?"

Kelarová also said that according to the owner of the recreational facility, the police apparently did ultimately visit the scene. However, they did not come until the afternoon of Monday, 8 August, and only after Petr Kadlec of the Czech Philharmonic filed a complaint with the Regional Police Directorate in Ústí nad Labem regarding the local police procedure.

That patrol, of course, could not have spoken with any of the victims or eyewitnesses to the incident, because the choir and the Czech Philharmonic musicians were at a dress rehearsal in Rumburk prior to the final three concerts of the "Romano drom" 2016 project. "I ask, perhaps naively:  If the police did come to the scene more than two days later, isn't it startling that they did not want to speak with any of the direct witnesses to the incident or the victims? Forgive me for repeating myself, but is that what the police call 'immediately investigating and contacting all parties'?" the choir director said.

Nobody from the Varnsdorf Police or any other polcie force ever came to the scene, not even to at least take statements from some of the eyewitnesses to the incidents. The "Romano drom" summer school continued remained at the facility until 13 August.

Let's give children a chance!

Kelarová is of the opinion that the neighbor fired his weapon near the children to intimidate them, and she is convinced this was a racially motivated hate crime. According to the owner of the facility, coexistence with that particular neighbor has long been problematic - and there have been dozens of other camp groups with which he allegedly also had problems - but never before has he ever fired a weapon, or entered the grounds, or racially abused people.

The choir director believes the man's explanation to the media that his gunfire was for training his dog is just an excuse. "After all, he even admitted to the RESPEKT reporter that his gunfire was connected with what was happening at the camp... Moreover, he castigated the Romani children from the Čhavorenge choir with racist abuse," she said, adding that those attending the camp had never given the neighbor any cause for complaint.

The children behaved in such a way as to not disrupt nighttime quiet after 22:00 the entire time they were at the facility, traveled elsewhere to rehearse their singing, and spent most of their time indoors because of inclement weather. The neighbor has told news server Romea.cz that he knows he was vulgar and used racist abuse.

The man who fired the weapon said he was led to his actions by long-term frustration over the constant noise in the neighborhood. "I reject the allegations that I fired my weapon in the camp - I was on my property then. During the conflict in the kitchen I said terrible things, but I decidedly did not mean to be racist - it just bothers me that there has been noise from that camp for several months in a row," he told news server Romea.cz.

"What bothers me most about this entire matter is what the Romani children have been subjected to. Our children work on themselves with great effort, they do their best to improve, we lead them in that direction, we tell them that together we must change the world for the better. What can they expect for their effort? Gunshots, racist abuse, and the Varnsdorf Police officers telling us that we shouldn't turn the incident into a Western. Those children absolutely do not deserve any of this. I'm terribly sad about this injustice," the choir leader said.

"I'm asking all of the children's parents, non-Romani and Romani:  Is this ok? Do we want to live in such a world? Please, everybody:  Let's give the children a chance! Let's not fire guns at them!" Kelarová told news server Romea.cz

Ida Kelarová and her colleagues have drawn up the following timeline of the events that took place between 4 August and 13 August 2016 in connection with the incidents at the recreation center in Jiřetín and at the police station in Varnsdorf:

THURSDAY 4 August

The children from the Čhavorenge choir returned to the recreation facility after their treasure hunt, during which they fulfilled many tasks together (at one of the stops each child had to talk about his or her fears); the children returned happily, because they had managed to work not as several dozen individuals, but as a real group all pulling together in unison. On their way to the facility the children ran past the home of the neighbor at approximately 21:30, and the last group of children to pass heard his vulgar, racially-motivated insults and the sound of gunfire.

The other adult colleagues and I decided not to resolve the incident with police involvement; we did not want to spoil what had been a beautiful, joyful evening for the children - the feeling that, after completing their eight-hour treasure hunt, they had managed to do something they could never have imagined before - by having police arrive to interrogate the children and the organizers into the night. At that point we were under the impression that police would come to the scene if we were to report an incident of that kind, and as I said in our first interview with Romea.cz, we did not call them.

SATURDAY 6 August

At around 8:30, during our exercises, we first heard three gunshots near the facility we had rented in Jiřetín pod Jedlovou, fired by that same neighbor, and he subsequently burst onto the grounds of the facility, where he verbally assaulted Desideria Dužda with racist abuse.

At around 9:00 the owner of the facility, Dušan Ezr, traveled into Varnsdorf to report the behavior to police.

At around 9:30, Ida Kelarová called Mr Ezr's mobile telephone and asked to speak with the police officer, who was named Josef Harák, and he spoke on Mr Ezr's phone, telling her that "We have our procedures" and hanging up without another word.

After 9:30 Ida Kelarová called the 158 number to report the entire matter. The police officer who answered that call asked whether we knew what kind of weapon was fired and whether the shots were aimed at the children. We had only heard the weapon. We answered the second question by saying the shots had not been aimed at the children but that we didn't know what to expect next from the shooter. When we asked whether the police would come to the scene, because we felt endangered, we were told that the entire matter would be handled by the Varnsdorf Police.

At around 10:00 the Varnsdorf Police (Mr Ducháček) called to recommend that we come there to make our statements because a patrol would not be visiting the scene.

Between 10:30 and 11:00, Ida Kelarová (as the artistic director of the project), Adéla Bartáková (producer of the project) and Petr Kadlec (head of the project for the Czech Philharmonic) arrived at the Varnsdorf Police station, where they were met by a Mr Ducháček, who was handling the case, but who, of course, told us that the whole thing would actually be dealt with by his colleague Josef Harák - the man who had refused to communicate with Ida Kelarová on the telephone and hung up on her, and whose first message to us all in person was:  "Let's not turn this into a big Western." He then refused to take statements from all three persons concerned ("We're not going to interrogate the entire camp here...") and only took a staement from Adéla Bartáková. All of us at the station were in shock at this behavior, and Mr Ducháček – who indirectly apologized for his colleague's behavior – ultimately did take statements from Petr Kadlec and Júlia Šimeková, but direct eyewitnesses Hana Koníčková (yoga instructor) and Lukáš Lacko (a member of the children's group) were not interrogated. Mr Harák then ran out of the room and, without saying good-bye, left the police station entirely.

SUNDAY 7 August

We learned from the Varnsdorf Police that the entire matter would probably be assessed as a misdemeanor. We never received any other message from the police regarding whether they would visit the scene.

MONDAY 8 August

After consulting with the Czech Philharmonic's lawyer, Mr Kadlec filed a complaint about the Varnsdorf Police's procedures with the head of the Děčín Police (managed by the Ústí nad Labem Regional Police Directorate) and speaks with Colonel JUDr. Alice Zemanová there at around 10:15 AM. According to the owner of the facility, Dušan Ezr, a police patrol consisting of Josef Harák comes to the scene in the afternoon, when the Čhavorenge choir and the members of the Czech Philharmonic are away, rehearsing in Rumburk.

WEDNESDAY 10 August

Colonel Zemanová calls at around noon to say she has investigated the procedures of the Varnsdorf Police and found nothing wrong, since a patrol did come to the scene. Petr Kadlec points out to her that the patrol did not arrive until Monday afternoon, probably after the internal affairs department in Děčín contacted them, and that the patrol made not the slightest effort to contact any of the victims.

We remained as a group in Jiřetín until 13 August. Nobody from the police ever came to speak with us.
 

Lenka Jandáková, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Hate, Ida Kelarová, Kriminalita, Napadení, Policie, Racism, Violence



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