Several dozen Romani people protest in Sokolov, Czech Republic over the attack by football hooligans on local Roma
Several dozen Romani people assembled yesterday in Sokolov, Czech Republic in the location where, last Friday, a group of football fans assaulted several Romani people, including minors. The gathering was convened by Roma Luma, a newly-established political party.
Romani people gave speeches criticizing racism in the Czech Republic and Friday's intervention by police, which they allege was undertaken solely to protect the attackers. Several of the speeches declared that the Czech Republic is also home to the Roma and called for Romani unity.
ROMEA TV broadcast the assembly live online. The protest was moderated by Pavel Krtek, who opened the event by lifting up the activity of nonprofits whom he believes are aiding Romani men and women in different areas before giving the floor to Emil Voráč of Khamoro, which is just one such nonprofit.
Voráč reminded those assembled of a case from České Budějovice involving an assault on a Romani child where, thanks to nonprofits, the attackers were eventually convicted. "Eighty per cent of the inhabitants of the Czech Republic hate us, they don't differentiate among us. It's all the same to them whether a Romani person is educated or not. This is about our being Romani, that is why they hate us," he said in his speech.
"If non-Romani people or non-Romani organizations share our aims, then we welcome that and work together with them. We need their support, we need nonprofits and politicians to meet with us here - each and every person who asks for justice. We reject no one," Voráč said.
"Racism is ramping up and must be eliminated," Voráč concluded, thanking the demonstrators for turning out. The next speaker, Luboš Oláh, reminded people of Friday's incident and introduced the woman whose arm was broken by the attacking football fans.
"There has been enough violence, there has been enough humiliation. We have our roots here, this is our home too," Oláh said in his speech.
"This is our home, this is our home," the Romani men and women chanted in response. Marco Cavali, a co-founder of Roma Luma, then called for Romani unity in his own speech, saying: "I can't stand the word 'majority', I don't want the people who are called that to believe they are better than us. We are also human beings, we are proud Roma. We have to show them that this is our home too, we have to show them that we are the ones who built these roads and bridges."
"We have to defend our children, because next time they could attack your children too," Cavali concluded. Local Romani resident František Karička, whose father was one of those assaulted on Friday, then told the crowd the attackers were not local to Sokolov and called on other Romani people to remain calm and address the current situation with brains, not brawn.
"This has to be addressed through legal means. We need an attorney to address this," Karička said.
Karička's father, who was among those who were attacked on Friday, then gave an emotional speech criticizing the organizers of the protest for not wanting to let him speak. "I was almost completely beaten up here and I have a right to speak now too," he said before describing what it felt like to be assaulted.
Another Romani victim of the attack then spoke and criticized some of the Romani bystanders, who he said had not come to the aid of those who were being assaulted because they were recording the incident on their smartphones. "You want publicity? For what? You won't help anybody that way," he claimed.
Jan Červeňák of Roma Luma then shook the hand of the older Romani man who had been assaulted and expressed respect for him. "If another such incident happens anywhere else, we will go there too. We must send a clear message to all white racists: Wherever you all beat us up, we will all show up. We will not stand for this. You won't beat up our children, you won't beat up our dads," he said, calling for all Romani people and all Romani organizations to work together.
A small group of Roma from Brno also traveled to the assembly. "We don't like what has happened to us, we disagree with this, we came to support you all," one of them told the crowd.
A Romani woman from Sokolov also called for Romani unity. "We must fight together, if we begin falling apart then we won't get anywhere. We have to do this in the interests of our children," she said, adding that the laws of the Czech Republic have been written for the Czech elite, not for Romani people.
"There is enough evidence that Romani people were assaulted here in Sokolov and the police should be addressing that. It's not possible for the aggressors to be protected by the police," the Romani woman said.
Police in the Sokolov area are continuing to investigate the incident during which a group of aggressive out-of-town youth assaulted local Romani residents. According to information reported by news server Romea.cz, football hooligans, such as supporters of Slavia Prague, were among those who attacked the Roma on Friday.
In addition to investigating the incident itself, the local Internal Affairs Department is reportedly also investigating the behavior of the intervening police officers, who are said to have behaved inappropriately toward the Romani residents. Eyewitnesses allege that one police officer placed the barrel of his service pistol against the head of a Romani woman while others allegedly taunted the Roma for allegedly drawing welfare.
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