Slovakia: 300 Roma protest police intervention in Vrbnica
Slovak media report that approximately 300 Romani people assembled on a square in Michalovce on 10 April for a protest against a police intervention in the village of Vrbnica earlier this month, calling for the removal of Košice Regional Police Director Juraj Leško and the resignation of Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák. The protest was organized by the Romani Union Party of Slovakia (SRUS).
Party chair František Tanko said police used disproportionate force and acted inappropriately only because Romani people were their targets. On 2 April the Slovak Police sent out simultaneous search parties in a raid code-named "100".
Vrbnica was one of the communities where officers intervened; the mayor says approximately 20 Romani people were beaten up by police there. Police, however, deny using force and say no one was injured as a result of the raid in that location.
In a speech to the assembled Roma, Tanko called the police maneuver brutal and illegal. According to his information, 15 residents of the Romani settlement in Vrbnica sought medical treatment in hospital as a result of the raid.
SRUS representatives believe police violated several constitutionally-guaranteed rights during their intervention at Vrbnica. Demonstrators chanted "Shame on the police", "Police protection, not beatings", "We want freedom" and other slogans.
"We demand that Minister Kaliňák remove Košice Regional Police Director Juraj Leško, who is responsible for how the police proceed. We also want Kaliňák himself to step down because he is pretending nothing has happened, but people were injured during a police intervention in Moldava nad Bodvou earlier and now they have been injured by police in Vrbnica," Tanko said.
Many Romani people came straight from Vrbnica to the demonstration and did not hide their indignation over the way police behaved during the raid. "We will continue these protests until the Interior Minister takes responsibility. We want this case, like all the others, never to be repeated. We've had enough - we do not want innocent people, innocent Romani people, to be beaten up," Tanko said yesterday in Michalovce.
The Romani people at the assembly were also protesting the policy of the current Slovak Government, criticizing it for failing to implemented the 2012 "Romani Reform" approved by the European Union for Slovakia. After listening to speeches, demonstrators set off on a protest march through the pedestrian zone to the building of the District Police Directorate.
There the demonstrators repeated their demands and then calmly returned to the square. Many protesters said they just want a decent life, jobs, and peace and quiet, but assert that the Slovak Government is not creating such conditions for them.
The protest assembly and march took place without any incidents. Police officers from an anti-conflict team and Romani security guards in orange vests maintained order during the assembly.
The Slovak Interior Ministry's Inspectorate has already begun an investigation into the police raid of Vrbnica and has initiated criminal prosecutions for the felony offense of abusing the power of a public official. "Currently procedural tasks are underway and it is not possible to provide any other information," Slovak Interior Ministry spokesperson Andrea Dobiášová said.
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