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Online reporting from 1 May counter-protest against neo-Nazis in Brno, Czech Republic

Brno, 1.5.2011 17:49, (ROMEA)
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Today, 1 May 2011, people sympathetic to neo-Nazism marched through the streets of Brno once more. This year they intentionally selected a route leading through a quarter where many Roma families live. Roughly two thousand people stood up to the neo-Nazi march and expressed their resistance to it. A total of eight people have been arrested for the time being, seven of them right-wing radicals. The full description of today's events as they unfolded is below. News server Romea.cz will publish a summary of the day's events later.

ON-LINE REPORTING

17:05 - Our correspondent says both sides are currently dispersing. Given that there is a danger of right-wing radicals attacking those who participated in the blockade and the local Roma, people are leaving the scene of the conflict in large groups. Our correspondent says the police have the security situation under control.

16:50 - The right-wing radicals' march is over. So far eight people have been arrested by police, seven of them right-wing extremists. The police spokesperson says the eighth is an anarchist.

16:42 - A small group of several dozen right-wing radicals has broken away from the march and managed to make it across the police barricades. They are attempting to attack the blockading crowd. Police have prevented the attack and pacified the assailants.

16:40 - The blockade of the neo-Nazi march is at the intersection of Koliště and Cejl streets. Police are blocking both Koliště street and their access to Malinovského náměstí. The neo-Nazis are trying to break through the police cordon to get to the blockade. A skirmish has broken out between the promoters of the DSSS and the police.

16:35 - Our correspondent says there are already around 2 000 opponents of the right-wing radicals on the scene. They are heading toward Malinovského náměstí.

16:30 - The police spokesperson has told news server Romea.cz that another person, the translator of the German-language speech, has also been brought to the police station to make a statement. Police are said to be still evaluating the speech. The police spokesperson also says that all of the police officers have their proper identification numbers on their helmets.

16:25 - The right-wing radicals have marched by Cejl street, about 100 meters away from their opponents, who are chanting "Shame! Shame!"

16:11 - News server iDNES.cz reports that a small group of people have attempted to stop the right-wing radicals' march by lying down on the ground. The 500-member crowd of DSSS and neo-Nazi promoters stepped over them and has moved on into Bratislavská street.

16:30 - Our correspondent says that right now it looks like the right-wing radicals' march will probably be diverted into Bratislavská street and will therefore pass by the Museum of Roma Culture on its way to Malinovského náměstí.

16:00 - The crowd of those opposing neo-Nazism in Cejl street is doing its best to pressure the police cordons. Police are refusing to permit the blockading crowd to move.

15:45 - Police have blocked the path of those opposing the right-wing radicals' march, so they are remaining in Cejl street. They are separated from Malinovského náměstí by about four rows of riot police. According to our information, some of these officers are not wearing identification numbers.

15:35 - Police have evaluated the last speech given at the DSSS promoters' gathering, which was made in German, and found several illegal statements were made. The police spokesperson says the speaker has been taken to the police station to make a statement.

15:31 - The right-wing radicals are marching down the route in reverse. The blockaders are moving back about 200 meters into Cejl street to prevent the radicals from marching down the street.

15:30 - Former Czech Human Rights Commissioner Michael Kocáb, Green Party chair Ondřej Liška, Chaplain Lízna from Teplice, representatives of the Czech branch of Amnesty international and the IN IUSTITIA and ROMEA associations are in the crowd of people blocking the right-wing radicals.

15:24 - DSSS promoters and other right-wing radicals have set off on their march through Brno. DSSS chair Vandas, according to our correspondent, is insisting on the original route for the march. "The police are equipped with non-lethal bullets so I hope they will secure the route for the march that was originally agreed to," Vandas said.

15:20 - The right-wing radicals are slowly getting into formation in the park and getting ready to leave the gathering place. Our correspondent says they are currently facing the opposite direction to that of the originally agreed route. However, for the time being it is still not clear where their route will eventually lead.

15:05 - The police spokesperson has told news server Romea.cz that police are currently evaluating the content of the speeches given by the right-wing radicals.

14:50 - The right-wing radicals' march has begun. The number of people opposed to them has risen to roughly 1 100.

14:45 - Another 300 people have now joined those resisting the right-wing radicals' march. The total number of those opposing the neo-Nazis is about 1 000. DSSS promoters remain at around 400.

14:40 - Brno City Hall is negotiating a change in the march route with the promoters of the DSSS and neo-Nazism. According to our correspondent, the DSSS chair is not protesting the suggestion. Our correspondent also reports that Green Party chair Ondřej Liška has submitted documentation to police showing that the conveners of the right-wing radicals' assembly are connected to the Czech neo-Nazi scene and that police should therefore disperse their demonstration.

14:30 - Speeches are still being made at the gathering place for promoters of the DSSS and the neo-Nazis. DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas made a speech, as did DSSS Vice-Chair Jiří Štěpánek. Speeches were also made by Katrin Köhler, a city councilwoman from the NPD party in the Saxon city of Chemnitz (Germany) and by Günter Rehak of the Austrian nationalist party NVP.14:00 - The police spokesperson says that for the time being only one person has been arrested, a promoter of the right-wing radicals. "He was carrying a weapon, which police officers confiscated. The man was taken to the local police station to make a statement," police spokeperson Vedrová said.

13:55 - The crowd blockading the neo-Nazi march is chanting "The streets are ours!". They are roughly 200 meters away from the promoters of the DSSS and neo-Nazis.

13:50 - The right-wing radicals have started their speeches. News server iDNES.cz is reporting this quote from Tomáš Vandas: "They can terrorize us, they can walk all over us, but nationalism is the future of this country."

13:38 - Our correspondent says a Romani woman in traditional dress is standing at the head of the blockade next to a woman in traditional Moravian dress who is expressing her affinity and support.

13:25 - Our correspondent says DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas has just declared the march will take place. We have just learned that negotiations are underway as to whether the march route taken by the promoters of the DSSS and neo-Nazism will be diverted. The blockade of Cejl street is continuing.

13:20 - Blockade organizers are reading aloud the names of the celebrities that have joined the action and their declarations. Organizers are also announcing that roughly 400 right-wing radicals have come to Brno. This is the very first time that opponents of those promoting the DSSS and neo-Nazism have outnumbered the right-wing radicals.

13:08 - The mass against violence in front of the Art House has ended. Most of the people who participated in it are now joining the blockade at the head of Cejl street. News server iDNES.cz reports that police are not intervening against the blockade. The news server also reports that DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas arrived at the radicals' event shortly after 13:00. Our correspondent tells us that one banner being held by an opponent of the extremist march caricatures Vandas as a monkey.

13:05 - The blockade crowd now roughly numbers 600 - 700 people. They are standing at the exact spot the neo-Nazis plan to march through at 3:30. One of the organizers is shouting through the megaphone: "If we hold this position, the Nazis will not get through!"

13:00 - The religious service is continuing, but most in attendance are now heading toward Cejl street even though it is not clear whether police will allow them to join the people there. In the end, the officers did not prevent anyone from joining the blockade. The participants in the religious worship have now joined everyone else who is determined to block the neo-Nazi march. People are chanting "Blockade! Blockade!"

12:55 - František Lízna, a chaplain who works with the Roma community, has performed the religious service (it was interrupted by a helicopter flying overhead) which was supposed to be followed by the testimony of two people who have experienced hate violence. The testimonies were not given because BRNO BLOCKS organizers took the floor, apologized for the interruption, and announced that the blockade of the neo-Nazi march is beginning.

12:35 - Our correspondent has discussed the situation with local Roma on the scene and says they are determined to stand up to the neo-Nazis. One older woman said: "If we don't stand up to them now, they will be beating us up on every street corner soon."

12:32 - Some people in Cejl street are holding banners reading "No Entry for Neo-Nazis" and "Neo-Nazism Kills".

12:30 - People are peacefully assembling in front of the Art House who want to participate in a religious service. Most of them are Roma. Police spokesperson Petra Vedrová tells news server Romea.cz the situation is calm, but adds that both sides have been subjected to personal searches. "We received the information that blade weapons have been found on some of the participants. The weapons were confiscated by the Brno Police. We will continue to perform the searches to make sure there will not be any clashes," she said.

12:20 - In Cejl street, which is surrounded by police officers, Green Party chair Ondřej Liška has taken the floor again. He is telling people through the megaphone that the blockade must remain nonviolent and weapon-free. A three-member anti-conflict team is accompanying a large group of opponents of neo-Nazism. Riot police are patrolling the situation throughout the city.

12:10 - Police have conducted personal searches of some in the group of people remaining on the corner of Cejl street and have let them through to Malinovského náměstí, where the ecumenical services are to begin in a few minutes.

12:05 - The various speeches cannot be head because of the helicopter maneuvering overhead, so roughly two-thirds of those opposing neo-Nazism have decided to leave and head for the corner of Cejl street to reach the place where the religious services are going to be. The space is patrolled by several dozen riot police. Police are refusing to let roughly 200 opponents of neo-Nazism through. They have decided to stay where they are.

11:55 - A police helicopter maneuvering directly above the place where the opponents of the neo-Nazi march are giving speeches is making the speeches difficult to hear.

11:50 - Pavel Fried, chair of the Jewish Community of Brno, has joined the anti-neo-Nazi speechmaking: "When neo-Nazis come to town it does not only concern the Jews and the Roma, it concerns everyone. People turned away from recognizing a similar evil 70 years ago, and it ended in millions of dead Jews, hundreds of thousands of dead Roma, and a world war. We don't want neo-Nazis in Brno, we don't want neo-Nazis anywhere else!"

11:40 - Green Party chair Ondřej Liška said the following to those opposing the neo-Nazi march: "We are the ones who are upholding the Constitution of the Czech Republic. We have the right to assemble to express our dissatisfaction with neo-Nazi marches." Liška added that the government is taking a lax approach toward right-wing extremism. "We must take back the public space being dominated by the neo-Nazis today and we must do it together, irrespective of our skin color," Liška ended his speech.

11:30 - František Kostlán of the ROMEA association summarizes in his speech how the bureaucrats and police officers have approached other recent right-wing radical actions. In his view, the situation is serious. He also says that even though the law was obviously broken at previous neo-Nazi demonstrations, police did not intervene and allowed the marches to continue.

11:25 - Czech Senator Jaromír Štětina is continuing the speeches in front of the Museum of Roma Culture. He emphasizes the importance of upholding the Constitution of the Czech Republic to the crowd of roughly 300 participants.

11:20 - The national anthem of the Czech and Slovak Roma, "Čhajori romaňi", which was composed by Roma people imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp, starts the program against the neo-Nazi march through Brno. The first speaker, Jarmila Balážová, expresses her appreciation for the fact that the meeting in front of the Museum of Roma Culture is one of Roma and non-Roma people with the same aim, to prevent neo-Nazis from marching through the cities of the Czech Republic.

11:15 - Roma activist Karel Holomek, the chair of the Association of Roma in Moravia, is also on the scene. He told news server Romea.cz: "Being present at these anti-neo-Nazi actions is a question of solidarity, all of society and all of its public figures should be expressing that solidarity." He also added that he is personally concerned that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. "I am ready to resign as a member of the Czech Government Inter-Ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs because I believe the government is not doing anything about the growing right-wing extremism in this society," he said.

11:10 - More promoters of the blockade are gathering in front of the Museum of Roma Culture despite the inclement weather. Speeches by leading public figures supporting the blockade will start in a moment. According to our information, the first speaker will be the journalist and chair of the ROMEA association, Jarmila Balážová. Our correspondent says many journalists are following the situation.

10:50 - The official start of the BRNO BLOCKS event is about to take place in Bratislavská street. More than 200 people are waiting there and others are arriving. According to one of the organizers, Václav Pecl, it is clear that Roma residents have not been frightened away by police calling on them to passively leave the city. Others waiting for the official program to start are Green Party chair Ondřej Liška, Czech Senator Jaromír Štětina, former Czech Senator Jiří Zlatuška and the director of Amnesty International Czech Republic, Dáša van der Horst.

10:30 - Czech Senator Jaromír Štětina is also coming to Brno to support the blockade.

10:20 - Our correspondent tells us that police officers are using telescopes to patrol the roads into Brno and monitor the situation. They are stopping selected vehicles and checking the identities of the people in them.

10:10 - Brno police spokesperson Petra Vedrová says all is calm for the time being on the streets of Brno. She says roughly 200 promoters of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia have gathered in the city center. She did not want to give an exact number of police officers deployed. There are said to several hundred on the city streets.

On-line reporting will start on Sunday, 1 May 2011 at 10:00.

Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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