Nový Bor: Five minutes of silence for victims of machete attack
A demonstration organized by local mothers has been held in the Czech town of Nový Bor to call for greater security in the town. According to various estimates, between 500 and 1 000 people attended. The demonstrators maintained five minutes of silence as an expression of sympathy for the victims of a recent attack with machetes and truncheons in a bar there. The demonstration took place without incident. Even though a few well-known right-wing extremists were in attendance, organizers managed to keep everything under control.
"We have come to express our disagreement with what happened here and also to make known our demands for greater security in this town. We are ordinary people who want to live normal lives. We don't want to live in fear of what might happen. We want justice for all and we want the security forces to act according to what is just and legal. When a crime or misdemeanor is committed, we want it to be fairly investigated, not made light of or swept under the carpet," organizer Anna Marková said in one of the opening speeches, according to the Mediafax press agency.
Even though a group of Romani people was behind the attack, Sylva Medová, another organizer, said yesterday's demonstration did not have a racial subtext. "We are the mothers of children in Nový Bor and we don't like unrest in the town. We want one thing only, and that is for the perpetrators of all crimes to be justly punished. We must find the courage [to speak out] when we don't like something, we can't fear intimidation or threats," Medová said. In her view, the incident cannot be resolved through violence and people - or members of radical groups - should definitely not take justice into their own hands, as it is the job of the courts and police.
The demonstration was also attended by Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD), whom Mediafax quoted as saying that "problems with minorities" are not unique to Nový Bor, but are shared by other towns and villages in the region. "It's clear that municipalities must also do something. Towns and villages don't have a lot of resources. Municipal police forces are not very large, but if town councils agree to join forces and create, for example, a unit capable of rapidly intervening during such incidents, that would afford municipalities certain options. We will be discussing this on Wednesday at a meeting of mayors in the Šluknov district," Foldyna said.
According to news server Romea.cz's correspondent, Drahomír Radek Horváth, the entire demonstration stayed strictly on point. No one exploited the occasion for anti-Romani haranguing or political purposes. "The demonstration took place calmly overall, only a few opinions bordered on the unacceptable. There were a few small groups of people there who were evidently frustrated. Of course that's not surprising, the entire matter is still so fresh in people's minds - I would have been surprised if no one like that had been there," Horváth said.
Horváth greatly regretted that local Romani people did not attend the demonstration. "In my view it is a mistake that they did not attend. They had an enormous opportunity to take a stand on this case," he said.
Štefan Gorol, chair of the Czech-Romani Association of Nový Bor, dissuaded local Romani people from participating in the demonstration. "I visited all the families and told them all not to attend the demonstration, not to give anyone cause to attack them," Gorol said.
The incident in the gaming room took place after a barmaid asked two underage Romani youths who wanted to play the video poker machines to show her their identification. They are alleged to have started arguing with the woman because (according to Gorol) they had showed her their ids the day before and she should have known their ages. Other customers in the bar are then said to have stood up for the barmaid. One of them threw the youths out of the bar using violence and vulgar curses.
The Roma claim the man first attacked the 15-year-old youth, which prompted their response. They returned to the bar with reinforcements armed with machetes and truncheons, and attacked the customers. Three men suffered injuries during the attack, two aged 36 and one aged 31, who was seriously injured. The men primarily suffered cuts and lacerations during the attack.
Zdeněk Ryšavý, Executive Director of the ROMEA civic association, called the attack disproportionate and completely unacceptable. "We unequivocally condemn this violent machete attack. That is not the way to resolve conflicts and problems. If the Romani youngsters were assaulted, then they should have turned to the police or to an association that helps victims," Ryšavý told news server Romea.cz.
Police have taken three of the five assailants into custody. Two were arrested earlier, while the third turned himself in on Thursday. A search is underway for the rest. Dušan Gorol, another member of the Romani community in Nový Bor, said local Romani people condemn the attack and want to cooperate in solving the crime, as shown by the fact that one of the suspects turned himself in.
However, the claim is also being made that police are allegedly failing to investigate the incident properly. The detained 15-year-old Romani youth is said to have been forced by police into confessing that he committed the beating. There are also complaints that police did not arrest one of the men now still at large immediately after the crime was committed.
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