Slovakia: Video of police intervention against Roma at gas station goes viral, sparks protests
Slovak media are reporting that late Sunday night and during the early morning hours of Monday an incident transpired between police and a group of local residents in the Šaca neighborhood of Košice who are now accusing the officers of committing brutality and violating their rights. Several families from a local housing estate (non-Roma and Roma) were celebrating the arrival of friends from England at a local gas station when the incident happened.
A patrol officer was apparently bothered by the celebration and decided to break it up, leading to a conflict after which Marián Kuchár was handcuffed and taken away. Those celebrating claim that they had not been disturbing anybody or preventing anybody from doing anything at the gas station.
About 400 people, most of them Romani, protested against the police intervention the following day. The celebrating group admits that they had been consuming alcohol bought at the gas station, but say the police officer had recommended they go to the station because they had allegedly been making too much noise celebrating on the streets of the housing estate.
"He came by to warn us that we were disrupting nighttime quiet. Yes, I respected that, I told him yes, it's 23:00, we'll go over to the gas station. There's an area with chairs there, we'll do our drinking there," Kuchár told news server Noviny.cz.
At 3:30 AM the conflict began. "The police patrol warned those present that they were being noisy and also that consuming alcoholic beverages in publicly accessible places is banned, so they were committing illegal behavior," the Slovak Police said in a press release.
Those celebrating argue that they had been allowed to sit in the outdoor area by employees of the gas station and that one of the police officers is biased against them, which is why he escalated the conflict. The police reject that assertion.
"Those present were apparently under the influence of alcoholic beverages, they behaved aggressively and shouted loudly that they were not doing anything wrong. One officer did his best to calm them and to address the matter in a quiet way," the police statement reads.
Kuchár disagrees with that claim. "He was biased against me. I can't explain it otherwise. My rights have been violated. He shoved my wife, and my sister-in-law was assaulted by the members of the emergency motorized units. There was no reason for it," Kuchár says in a video statement produced about the incident by Ivan Hriczko.
That video also features commentary from the "Romani King", Róbert Botoš, objecting to the police intervention. Over the course of several hours, about 400 people assembled the next day to protest the intervention, peacefully expressing their concerns about police brutality and their fears for their children and their other relatives.
In their statement, police say while the intervention will be investigated by the officers' superiors, they believe it was proportionate. "The PZ officers' on-duty intervention and the secured camera recordings from the scene of the event will be subject to investigation by the supervisor who, according to the current findings, has evaluated the PZ officers' service activities and the actual intervention as adequate and lawful," the police said.
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