Slovakia: Romani residents of Zborov give testimony about police brutality
On Wednesday, 24 May, video footage of the disproportionate police intervention against the Romani residents of Zborov, Slovakia, made the rounds of the online social networking sites. The intervention happened on 16 April, when police were called to the scene of a brawl.
Reporter Štefan Dreveňák visited the Romani residents of Zborov and published their testimonies on 25 May on the Slovak news server Redakcia 1. Mayor Ján Lukáč is described in that reporting as apparently knowing nothing about the incident.
Allegedly the mayor was never informed as to what happened and refused to comment, according to Redakcia 1. The Romani eyewitnesses interviewed recalled the case as if it happened yesterday.
According to eyewitnesses, a scuffle broke out between two hostile families that was begun by two sisters-in-law and then continued by their male family members, after which the police called to the scene undertook their disproportionate intervention. One of the women who initiated the shoving match had called police.
"On the day of the street fighting we never even actually saw what was going on. When we heard the shouting we went outside and there was a police car there, then more cops drove up, and the moment they got out of their cars they began to beat people for no reason," eyewitness Veronika Kováčová described to news server Redakcia 1.
"They beat me, my 14-year-old son, and my father-in-law too. He was standing there, and they began to beat him just for standing there, and then they handcuffed him, so I began to shout that they should let him go. The police officer said I should pay 20 Euro and that if I didn't, they would take him to the police station in Bardejov and beat him so he would be blacker than he is now," the eyewitness said.
"I preferred to pay just so they would let him go. Bela suffered no repercussions but we women, the old people and our children did. Bela was the main initiator of the street fighting and because he is a police informant, the police came back in the evening to find out whether anybody had video of it. We're afraid and concerned, but we cannot remain quiet, because I believe that unless we speak up it will get even worse. This is not the first time something like this has happened and we can't take it anymore," Kováčová testified, in tears.
"I saw the entire thing from beginning to end and now my son is afraid the moment he sees the police, he wet the bed that night and shouted out loud in his sleep because of his nightmares, but nobody cares about that," another eyewitness named Maja told Redakcia 1. "You can't even imagine how they beat the Roma. One pregnant woman was beaten to such a degree that she fell down and lost consciousness. The Roma began to shout that they had killed her. They prevented us from aiding her even though they could see she wasn't getting back up, and then they quickly called me over to assist."
"I don't believe this will be resolved. I remember a television program about them beating up the Roma - nobody stood up for those people then, it will just all remain as it is and those officers will continue on duty here," eyewitness Maja told Redakcia 1.
Another eyewitness also described how the police intervened against a Romani man in Zborov. "They handcuffed him and pushed him to the ground, he wasn't even wearing a t- shirt, and they pushed him into all those little rocks. One officer put his foot on the man's head and pressed him even further into the ground, into those rocks. He was bloodied, then he fainted... and I shouted 'He's fainted, he's fainted, pick him up!' Then he somehow came to and asked for water, but the officers told people not to give him any... but one lady came out of her garden and gave him water. Then they picked him up and leaned him against a car. He was bleeding like you see in the movies," the resident of the Zborov settlement told Redakcia 1.
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