Romani associations distance themselves from community member who apparently expressed desire to attack Czech politician
Czech MP Tomio Okamura has been playing the "Roma card" in the runup to next month's elections to the lower house, and now he is taking advantage of video footage of a Romani community member from the Liberec Region that has been posted online to do so. The footage, from a restaurant in Nový Bor, captures remarks made by Ladislav Mártha, an employee and member of the Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, in which he threatens to stab the politician.
Mártha has apologized through social media for his remarks and police are investigating the incident. Other Romani community members using social media have condemned Mártha's behavior and the Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region has also distanced themselves from him.
"We should be discussing the serious matter of Mr Okamura. You all well know that he wants to take away aid to those in material distress and housing benefits. We disagree with that. Yesterday he gave a shorter speech in the Chamber of Deputies, where he wants to address this," Mártha says in the video filmed at the beginning of August.
"We will fight Okamura, everybody should fight against Okamura, let's pick up our knives and stab him," Mártha then said, holding a tableware knife in his hand. In a response sent to news server Romea.cz by the director of the Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, Ján Lányi, the organization said: "The Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, z.s., continues to absolutely, strictly distance itself from the remarks by Ladislav Mártha about Okamura in Nový Bor in a local pub. We were not informed in advance of this behavior and we do not identify with it. This individual bears responsibility for himself, his behavior and his remarks, and the other persons whom we can see in the video may have more to add about this incident."
The Coalition distanced itself from its member before Okamura used a clip from that footage in his own campaign video. Both Mártha and others in attendance who were having dinner at the restaurant claim the remarks were just hyperbole and irony and that Mártha did not mean them seriously.
"That was ironic, he was joking, he didn't mean it seriously," Miroslav Tancoš, who attended the dinner, told news server Deník N. Other Romani people, however, are not as conciliatory about Mártha's remarks and consider it a serious blunder for them to have been made in public in the runup to the elections.
"People, there are loose cannons among us presenting themselves as our emissaries. If I disagree with hate, racism and oppression, then I cannot behave in that same way. Let's show that we are not actually hateful, that we are peace-loving, that we want to work and contribute to everything that is happening in the nation to which we inextricably belong," said Emil Voráč of the Khamoro association in response to the hate speech incident.
Police are already investigating. "After a video appeared online in which the main speaker recorded at a meeting was speaking about physically assaulting a Member of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Mr Tomio Okamura, we began prosecution of that individual on the grounded suspicion that the offense of making dangerous threats has been committed," police spokesperson Ivana Baláková told Deník N.
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