Czech MP protesting measures to stem COVID-19 pandemic is a trafficker in poverty with a history of anti-Romani racism
Brawling on the floor of the lower house, rejecting the measures instituted to stop the pandemic in the Czech Republic, demonstratively refusing to wear a facemask, convening demonstrations during a time of strict lockdown. That is the current agenda of Czech MP Lubomír Volný, whose Facebook posts are now also being shared by Romani men and women with comments of praise.
Volný has managed to attract attention and, thanks to his appearances in Parliament and at demonstrations, has fought his way through to being one of the most-watched politicians on Czech social media. So: who is he?
What kind of past does this politician have? What kind of opinions has he expressed about Romani people?
From the xenophobic SPD to the "patriotic" Jednotní movement
Volný has been a member of the lower house since the October 2017 elections. He was elected as the leading candidate for the "Freedom and Direct Democracy - Tomio Okamura" (SPD) movement in the Moravian-Silesian Region.
The SPD has long been engaged in anti-Romani rhetoric and Volný has as well. SPD members have, for example, doubted whether Romani people were imprisoned in the concentration camp at Lety u Písku during the Second World War.
In addition to targeting Romani people, the SPD targets their hatred against the European Union, refugees, and even the late Czech President Václav Havel. In March 2019, Václav left the SPD along with two other MPs from the Moravian-Silesian Region, Marian Bojko and Ivana Nevludová.
The three said they were leaving the SPD because they disagreed with the approach being taken by the new management of the movement's organization in the Moravian-Silesian Region, who according to Volný had accepted a convicted neo-Nazi racist into the party. The SPD leadership called on Volný to give up his seat in the lower house, since he was leaving the movement.
Volný responded by saying he would remain in office. He then joined the movement called "Jednotní - alternativa pro patrioty" ("The Uniform Ones - the alternative for patriots"), which he said had been created by the former membership base of the Moravian-Silesian Regional SPD club.
In February of this year, Volný announced that he and Czech MP Bojko want to unite the nationalist and "patriotic" forces in the country ahead of the October elections to the lower house into a group called the "Free Bloc - Czech Sovereignty" (Volný blok Česká suverenita). The name of that group also includes his own surname, Volný.
Attacking Roma while making money off of them
Volný has been criticized more than once for his political rhetoric about migration, for example; at the beginning of February 2019, during debate in the lower house on a bill to abolish the court review of administrative decisions deporting foreign nationals, he spoke about the threats associated with migration into the EU and also alleged, without any evidence, that the criminal acts for which a senior citizen was recently convicted of terrorism had actually been perpetrated by what he called "welcomers", people who are in favor of receiving refugees. Several lawmakers present banged on their benches to express their disapproval of his allegations and reasoning.
Another target of Volný's hate speech has long been Romani people, but that has never prevented him from making money off of them. He has been charging high rents for apartments in two decrepit buildings he owns in a ghetto in Ostrava's Přívoz quarter, inhabited by Romani residents, and has cashed in on the state housing contribution disbursed for those tenants.
When Volný was an SPD member, that party was labeling the tenants who draw such benefits "parasites". When Czech MP Mikuláš Peksa (Pirates) began to criticize Volný for his exploitation, Volný began to threaten his Romani tenants with eviction.
Advocating "container housing" for Roma, attacks against the Romani Democratic Party and its representatives
Volný's Facebook profile makes it easy to identify the development in whom he has been targeting with his hate speech. He has inveighed against foreigners, migrants, refugees, the European Union, Black Lives Matter and naturally, Romani people.
At the beginning of November 2018, for example, he shared a social media post featuring a video made in Košice, Slovakia at the Luník IX housing estate, which is home to many Romani people. In that post he rejected any aid for Romani people and proposed following the example of the Czech town of Vsetín, which put many residents in the situation of having no choice but to move into "container housing" built from repurposed shipping containers.
Again in November 2018 he attacked the Romani Democratic Party, sharing video footage of speeches made by RDS members Miroslav Rusenko and Miroslav Tancoš during a demonstration in front of Prague Castle against Czech President Miloš Zeman's anti-Romani remarks. In the accompanying post he mockingly called Rusenko and Tancoš "stars" of liberal democracy.
That attack on the RDS included an attack on the ROMEA organization - whose video footage of the demonstration in front of Prague Castle he had used without permission, of course. Volný's fans clearly understood the message he was sending.
"Here you all can exactly see the reason why it suits the cikánská minority to continue to be the inadaptable minority over and over - even though they are living off of our benefits, all they do here is make a mess, with rare exceptions," one fan of the MP wrote in response to Volný's post, and others contributed in a similar vein. Moving on to April of 2019, Volný shared a misleading reportage broadcast by the Prima television channel about emigré Roma in England now returning to the Czech Republic.
"Get your wallets ready, dear taxpayers. You will be contributing to their 'reintegration'," Volný posted, alleging that welfare was being abolished in England and that Romani people were therefore heading back to the Czech Republic.
In July 2020 Volný mockingly posted about the Council of Europe's recommendations that states include information about the culture and history of Romani people in school curricula. He included video footage, again from Romani settlements in Slovakia, with the post and alleged that the culture that was being recommended for instruction in the schools was depicted there; the clip features a Romani woman speaking to a reporter angrily.
The MP also drew attention by posting on the seventh anniversary of the death of former Czech President Václav Havel that "Seven years ago one of the biggest traitors to this country died. Václav Havel."
Volný was born on 3 July 1973 in Ostrava and studied in the Faculty of Education at Ostrava University in the Department of Physical Education and Technical Instruction. After graduating he worked as a teacher in the primary schools, then spent many years abroad, and eventually went into business.
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