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MEPs compare death of Stanislav Tomáš in the Czech Republic to that of George Floyd in the USA

25.11.2021 6:35
Helena Dalli, the European Commissioner responsible for equal treatment. (PHOTO: Philippe STIRNWEISS, European Parliament)
Helena Dalli, the European Commissioner responsible for equal treatment. (PHOTO: Philippe STIRNWEISS, European Parliament)

During Tuesday's plenary session of the European Parliament, many MEPs compared the case of the Romani man Stanislav Tomáš of Teplice, Czech Republic, who died in June after police intervened against him, to the case of George Floyd in the USA, a Black man was murdered by police under similar circumstances, and several recalled that while the death of Floyd after the intervention by police sparked a media storm and extensive protests, especially in the USA, the fate of the Czech Romani man is being discussed by almost nobody today. The Czech Police have stated that there was no association between their intervention and the death, according to the final autopsy, but the lawyer for the family of Mr Tomáš disagrees with that assessment. 

On 19 June 2021, police used force to handcuff Mr Tomáš while arresting him in Teplice and he died later that day. Bystander video footage of the incident was posted to social media and then saved and published by news server Romea.cz, leading to broad criticism of the incident by both Czech and international activists and organizations and sparking Europe-wide protests by Romani people and their allies. 

The bystander video footage shows a police officer kneeling on Mr Tomáš's neck area in a manner reminiscent of the intervention by police that murdered George Floyd in May 2020. A spokesperson for the Czech Police said in October that according to the forensic assessment, the direct cause of Mr Tomáš's death had to do with his intoxication by methamphetamine. 

News server Romea.cz reported that the lawyer for the family of Mr Tomáš disagrees with that conclusion. Romani MEP Peter Pollák of Slovakia (Ordinary People and Independent Personalities - OLANO), asked the plenary session:  "Friends, have you all heard of the case of Stanislav Tomáš from the Czech town of Teplice?"

"He, too, like George Floyd, dies after police officers kneel on his neck. As is the custom, in this case as well. the oversight bodies have failed, or rather, they have not really begun to look into this dubious police intervention," Pollák said. 

Spanish MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar of the Spanish Workers' Socialist Party declared on Tuesday that "Stanislav Tomáš, EU citizen, Romani man, citizen of the Czech Republic, died after a brutal police intervention. He was suffocated."

"I would recall the case of George Floyd, with one difference - in Europe no voices were heard, no movement arose with the slogan 'I can't breathe'," the Spanish MP said, adding that in his view, Romani people are victims of systemic violence. The European Commission Vice President Margaritis Shinas also pointed out that if it were not for the MEPs, there would apparently be no discussion of Tomáš happening at all right now, and he reminded the plenary that the Czech officer kneeled on Tomáš's neck just as the officer who murdered Floyd had. 

Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli said she was expecting to learn a great deal from the conclusions of the independent investigation into the intervention by police that is currently being conducted by the Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková. The MEPs also recalled another example of how Romani people have been targeted by police with violence, the 2009 scandal from Košice, Slovakia of officers forcing a group of Romani boys to strip naked and slap each other

MEP Pollák recalled that the victims of that treatment never got justice in Slovakia and the officers were acquitted by the domestic justice system. "All of the European cases that I have mentioned here are famous just thanks to randomly-taken videos," he also noted. 

"If those videos had never existed, then today we would not be speaking of these cases at all," Pollák said. "What is failing are not just the oversight bodies, not just the bad apples in the police forces, but the monitoring of police interventions, which we do not have under control."

"Each European police officer must be equipped with a body camera so interventions can be assessed at any time," Pollák said. Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar warned during the discussion that "Violence committed against minorities is unacceptable in the Europe of the 21st century." 

Czech MEP Vondra knew nothing about the plenary discussion

No MEP from the Czech Republic joined the discussion. Czech MEP Alexandr Vondra (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) even said that it was not until the Czech media reported on the issue that he even knew a discussion of the case was taking place on the floor of the EP.

"This is not a subject of discussion here. Some delirious left-wing MEP from Spain said something and somebody noticed it," Vondra told news server Novinky.cz. 

"This is more a matter of political activism of this kind than anything else," Vondra added, saying that he believes the Czech authorities and institutions who, in his view, have clearly expressed their conclusions and have investigated the case. According to Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský (Christian Democrats), the communists, greens and socialists have taken up the death of Mr Tomáš as a big subject irrespective of all the evidence.  

Novinky.cz reported that Zdechovský said some of his colleagues at the European Parliament from other countries continue to perceive the Czech Republic as a racist state against Romani people, which he rejects. "I have given the MEPs examples of the inclusion of Romani people into society, but they told me that was propaganda. Most of them reference the reports by the nonprofit organizations for whom segregation and racism is their theme," he said.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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death after police intervention, European Commission, European Parliament, Roma



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