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"Racist hatemongers from Varnsdorf" encounter resistance in Prague

Prague, 1.10.2011 20:11, (ROMEA)
Convicted con artist Lukáš Kohout marches through Prague to the Office of the Czech Government. (PHOTO:  Lukáš Houdek)

Residents of Varnsdorf who traveled to Prague to hold an anti-Roma demonstration today on Palacký Square met with resistance from those who reject racism. A police anti-conflict team and cordon kept both groups from escalating their verbal clashes into physical ones. The "racist hatemongers from Varnsdorf" yelled at their opponents to take the Roma home with them and chanted "Gypsies to Prague!", a Czech Press Agency correspondent reported from the scene.

The protest against racism, social exclusion, and the "racist hatemongers from Varnsdorf" began at 13:00 and was attended by several dozen people. It was convened as a demonstration of disagreement with the gathering against the "reverse discrimination" allegedly being committed by Romani people in the Šluknov district, announced as taking place on the same square at 16:00.

"This action is an effort to make sure another voice is heard besides the voice of organized neo-Nazis, racists, and xenophobes," one of the counter-protest organizers from the Alerta association said. The organizers also permitted people of the opposite opinion to address the crowd through the megaphone. One young man, for example, complained about what it was like to coexist with Romani tenants of the Černý Most housing estate in Prague.

Before 15:00, a group of people led by the main organizer of the North Bohemian protests, convicted con artist Lukáš Kohout, arrived on the square wearing white t-shirts reading "We survived Varnsdorf, we'll survive anything". Those attending the anti-Roma demonstrations were most offended by the counter-protesters' banners reading "Nazis out of Prague" and "Stop Nazis", refusing allegations that they had anything in common with neo-Nazis or the ultra-right DSSS. However, representatives of that party, such as Petr Kotáb and Lucie Šlégrová were, paradoxically, standing by the organizers' side as they refuted allegations of a connection. A few Praguers also came out to support the anti-Roma demonstration.

Anti-Roma demonstrations began in North Bohemia in mid-August after two conflicts between ethnic Czechs and Romani people. The first demonstration to be held in Rumburk turned into a series of riots in front of Romani residences. The unrest then spread to Varnsdorf. During their attempts to march on Romani dwellings, demonstrators have thrown rocks at police more than once.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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