Nový Bydžov: Police brutalize non-violent demonstrators, neo-Nazi gang attacks Roma
After yesterday's meeting of the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) in Nový Bydžov, police were reprehensibly unable to prevent three Roma people from being attacked by a gang of 20 neo-Nazis. One of the victims suffered head injuries and lost consciousness. He was transported to hospital, where it was determined he had suffered a concussion. Hradec Králové police spokesperson Ivana Ježková told the Czech Press Agency that police arrested the extremists involved.
As many as 500 right-wing extremists traveled to the town yesterday for the DSSS event. Counter-demonstrators numbered approximately 200.
"Police arrested and took into custody at the district police department all 13 right-wing extremists after the clash," Ježková said. Speaking yesterday at 18:30 CET, she said security measures were continuing in the town and that she could not estimate when the police deployment might end. She did not rule out that officers might remain on patrol in the town overnight.
Jiří Mašek of the Hradec Králové emergency rescue service told the Czech Press Agency today that the injured man was transferred to the hospital in Nový Bydžov for treatment for bruises and concussion. His life is not at risk.
The incident occurred after a meeting and march attended by an estimated 500 sympathizers of the extreme-right DSSS. Roughly 200 counter-demonstrators attempted a non-violent blockade to prevent the neo-Nazis from marching, but police removed the counter-demonstrators from the march route in a brutal intervention.
"Police officers on horseback charged at the peaceful demonstrators at full speed," one demonstrator told Romea.cz. Officers also brutally beat demonstrators with nightsticks who were doing nothing more than standing on the street and pulled girls by their hair.
The police spokesperson confirmed that one person was injured during the intervention. Mašek said the victim suffered bruising. The right-wing radicals and their opponents dispersed in the afternoon.
The DSSS allegedly organized its event on the basis of requests from residents of Nový Bydžov afraid for their safety. The situation there escalated last November after several muggings and the rape of a young woman. A petition demanding the provision of security was signed by 3 257 people. Mayor Pavel Louda then issued a declaration sharply criticizing all Roma in the town and announced a series of measures to be taken against problematic residents.
Prior to the DSSS action, local authorities expected as many as 1 000 demonstrators to come to the town of 7 000. Police had hundreds of men prepared, including riot police and water cannon. The head of the Regional Police, Petr Přibyl, told the Czech Press Agency that more than 200 men were deployed.
The DSSS march itself took place without incident. When the right-wing radicals marched past the counter-demonstrators, police cordons kept the two sides apart. The extreme-right supporters returned to the square where their meeting had started at 13:00. They officially closed the meeting there and started to disperse after being called to do so by police more than once. The anti-fascists dispersed after the neo-Nazi march passed them by.
Prior to intervening against the counter-demonstrators in Na Šarlejích street, police officers warned them that if they did not obey the order to disperse, force would be used. "They were warned that they were preventing the procession of a properly announced gathering," the regional police spokesperson said.
The counter-demonstrators have made it clear that they consider the police approach to have been a disproportionate use of force. Green Party head Ondřej Liška, who attended the counter-demonstration, called the intervention brutal and disproportionate.
Prior to the intervention, police officers tried to reach an agreement with representatives of both sides. They asked DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas to change the route of his planned march, but he refused. Police communicated with the counter-demonstrators gathered in Na Šarlejích street, which had been announced as part of the DSSS route, and allegedly did their best to convince them to let the DSSS sympathizers pass freely.
Drahomír Radek Horváth, one of the activists who convened the counter-demonstration, has also condemned the police intervention. "I am shocked by the brutality and the disproportionate use of force during the intervention against people who were non-violently protesting. I will file criminal charges against the commander of the police intervention, [Petr] Krása, for abusing the powers of a public official," Horváth said.
Liška says the police let the neo-Nazis promenade through the town. "They should have dispersed the neo-Nazi demonstration as we requested. Once again it has been shown that neo-Nazis receive more protection from the state than do citizens demonstrating for democracy and human rights," Liška said. He intends to file a motion to investigate the proportionality of the police intervention.
DSSS head Tomáš Vandas said he is satisfied with his party's event. "Everything took place without incident. I believe everyone can convince themselves that we are not the ones who broke the law," Vandas said when the march was over.
The police spokesperson called the police approach adequate to the situation. "The intervention was professional and had to be performed rapidly. It prevented the threat of conflict and property damage," Ježková said.
Counter-demonstrators opposing racism met in the town at 11:00 CET. Miroslav Brož, one of those who convened the gathering, made a surprise announcement before it began that the gathering announced for U Hřiště street was being canceled and changed into a religious gathering and procession. "This form of gathering is not subject to the reporting requirement. We can choose whatever route we want," he said.
In the end, most of the counter-demonstrators ended up in Na Šarlejích street. The anti-racist gathering of more than 200 demonstrators included Roma people, anti-fascists, and supporters of the Green Party and the Czech Pirate Party. Demonstrators carried banners that read "Neo-Nazism is no solution" and "Vandas, get a job".
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