No Romani demonstration in Sokolov, but event about "Czech-Romani coexistence" will take place
As news server Romea.cz reported previously, the Romani demonstration against racism announced for 23 June in Sokolov will not take place. Mayor Zdeněk Berka (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) says the organizers will be holding an event one week later about good co-existence between the majority population and Romani residents in the town, as agreed with the Sokolov town leadership. The municipality is assisting with preparations for the event.
Berka said the date for the demonstration had been inappropriate. "That same day one of the biggest events in Sokolov will take place, 'Hooray for Vacation', which includes a fireworks competition. As many as 20 000 people attend that event annually and the town experiences significant restrictions because of it. It was possible that any eventual conflicts might have impacted the competition itself," Berka said.
The Czech Press Agency is reporting that one of the announcers of the demonstration, Vojtěch Pompa, has recognized the town hall's arguments as valid and welcomed the town's contribution to a later event. "It would not be good to import problems from elsewhere into Sokolov. On the contrary, we want other towns to take Sokolov as an example of the fact that we can all live together," Pompa is quoted as saying.
Pompa sees to have changed his opinion regarding one of the reasons for holding a demonstration, namely, the unsolved death of a Romani man in nearby Kynšperk during a police intervention at the start of May. "A demonstration would not be appropriate as long as the investigation is still underway. It would be like throwing a grenade," he remarked.
Pompa previously told news server Romea.cz that representatives of the town had asked him to move the demonstration to a different date, change the name of the event, and not use it as a forum for discussing racism, but instead for discussing the economic and social situation of Romani people. "In exchange, they promised me that someone would speak at the event about a project designed by the Labor Office to help employ local Romani people," Pompa said.
Miroslav Brož of the Hate is No Solution initiative (Iniciativa Nenávist není řešení) has criticized the town for asking the demonstration organizers to change the date of the demonstration. A member of the initiative is the main convener of the demonstration.
Instead of a demonstration featuring anti-racist speeches, there will instead be performances by Romani music groups in Sokolov from around the region. There will also be a presentation on crime prevention programs by the Sokolov Municipal Police, including the Romani crime prevention assistants who help local patrolmen in the town.
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