Roma Pride 2012 marches through the center of Prague
Almost 200 people, most of them Romani, set off shortly after 15:30 PM today on Prague's first-ever Roma Pride march. Similar marches took place today in 14 other European cities. The event was convened in the Czech Repulbic by the Konexe association in order to draw attention to the situation of the Romani minority in the country. Organizers of the march believe the state's integration policy often fails, resulting in many Romani people ending up in ghettos without education or work, as well as in anti-Romani sentiment gaining strength.
The marchers began gathering around 14:00 at the levee near Palacký most in Prague, where Equal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných příležitostí - SRP) chair Štefan Tišer gave a speech. The group SOS Přednádraží then presented its challenge to the Czech Governmen and the leadership of the town of Ostrava to address the housing problem of those living in the Přednádraží locality there. "We are deeply disturbed by this scandal and we call on the political representation to immediately fix this situation, either by restoring the buildings to an habitable state, or by ensuring acceptable housing for their tenants according to international standards," the group said to applause. Citizens can sign on to the challenge atwww.sosprednadrazi.cz.
The march set off just after 15:30 down Rašínová, Masarykova and Smetanovo nábřeží streets and then through Křížovnická and Platnéřská streets to the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí). At about 16:15 the marchers arrived at the evangelical church of U Salvátora, where a discussion was held starting at 17:00 involving many young Romani people, most of them active teenagers from the town of Krupka. The event ended with an ecumenical service starting at 19:30 in the Church of St. Martin in the Wall, ministered by the evangelical clergyman Mikuláš Vymětal, who assists Romani people.
During the march young Romani people chanted slogans such as "Here to stay" and "We are proud". Some also chanted a version of the football fan slogan "Kdo neskáče není Čech" (Everyone Czech, jump!) with "Kdo neskáče není Rom" (Everyone Romani, jump!). Romea.cz's correspondent described the parade from the scene: "I see banners with slogans like 'We don't just sing, we study too', 'Don't criticize, cooperate', and 'Roma Pride' in Czech and English." Police monitored the march and did not have to address any incidents.
The march was attended mostly by Romani people from northern Bohemia. Romani children living in residential hotels in Varnsdorf, where anti-Romani demonstrations took place last year, came to the capital for the pride march. A group of Romani people from Krupka nad Labem also attended. On the levee not far from the Mánes gallery, Romani boys rapped and Romani girls' black and red ruffled skirts billowed to the lively rhythm of Romani songs. The children practice their dancing and music performances in recreational clubs.
"Romani people were proud before 1989, but they have lost that pride. We are doing our best to revive this pride," said Čeněk Růžička, vice-chair of the SRP, who said he believed pride was the only thing that had helped Romani people survive until now. "I cannot remember, in all my 65 years, a worse time for Romani life than we are living right now," Růžička said.
Roma Pride marchers were planned in 14 other European cities for today. Organizer Benjamin Abtan of the EGAM organization, which initiated the Roma Pride marches around Europe, told the Associated Press that those attending were demanding "a Europe-wide battle against discrimination and racism" and celebrating "the diversity of Romani culture, which is an integral component of European culture".
In Paris approximately 200 people gathered for Roma Pride, where the event was supported by the famous director Tony Gatlif. Photos ofRoma Pride 2012 in Paris can be seen here.
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