Czech Republic: Neo-Nazis assault Roma with rocks, shouting "Today you die, the ovens are fired up"
The Czech town of Děčín experienced its first large-scale attack on Romani residents by a group of neo-Nazis earlier this week. Several of the assailants reportedly were tatooed with swastikas and other Nazi symbols and are said to have shouted racist slogans full of hatred while throwing glass bottles and rocks at a Romani-occupied building.
Two victims have told news server Romea.cz that one of the attackers was armed with a pistol (which he did not remove from its holster). One witness identified it as a "9 mm".
Locals have the impression that neither the municipal nor the state police are taking this case as seriously as they should. For example, despite the fact that there were many Czech and Romani eyewitnesses, it seems that neither municipal nor state police officers have yet managed to determine the identities of the attackers.
Three business days have elapsed since the attack and police have not yet bothered to interrogate the eyewitnesses. However, the director of the municipal police disagrees with the complaints that his subordinates are proceeding incorrectly.
"Today you die, the ovens are fired up"
After several media outlets reported the case one of a harmless verbal skirmish (e.g., the Děčín edition of deník.cz and Novinky.cz) while giving no space in their reporting to local Romani people and other witnesses so they could tell their side of the story, news server Romea.cz traveled to Děčín to investigate. According to the eyewitness testimonies of eight people, Romani and "whites", with whom we spoke, the attack took place roughly as follows:
On Sunday, 18 August at around 18:00, neo-Nazis physically and verbally attacked the Romani residents of Kamenická Street in Děčín. Prior to the incident, around 50 aggressive, racist, violent thugs had been taking some refreshment in the garden of the Daliborka restaurant on that same street.
The neo-Nazis first attacked a Romani family who live directly above the restaurant, after which about 20 of them set out to attack another Romani-occupied building about 100 meters away. They first threw rocks at the apartment above the restaurant, breaking a window.
In addition to other slogans, the neo-Nazis are said to have chanted "Vítkov, Vítkov, Vítkov...", a reference to the town where the worst neo-Nazi arson attack on a Romani family in the history of the Czech Republic took place. "Across the street is the garden of another pub, and during the attack on the Romani family's apartment several customers over there stood up and applauded what the neo-Nazis were doing," a source who prefers to remain anonymous told news server Romea.cz.
The violent thugs then moved 100 meters down Kamenická Street to the Romani-occupied building. According to many eyewitnesses they gave the Nazi salute, shouted "Heil Hitler" and "Sieg Heil", and also yelled other violent racist slogans, such as "Come on out gypsies, we'll kill you today", "Gypsies to the gas chambers", "Black swine", "Today you die", and "We've fired up the ovens"
The assailants threw glass bottles taken from the glass recycling container in front of the building, as well as rocks. One violent thug made it into the entryway of the building, from which he was ejected by a "white" female resident.
"I told him he had no business in the building and that they had probably lost their minds, because Romani people and whites live side by side here and there have never been any problems here among us. When he didn't want to leave, I told him I would file criminal charges against him if he didn't immediately get out," the lady told news server Romea.cz.
Many eyewitnesses said a person who lives on the top floor of the building across the street from the one that was attacked joined the neo-Nazis. Prior to the start of the assault, he gave the Nazi salute from the window of his apartment.
The man then came down to the street and, according to many testimonies, greeted the neo-Nazis, shaking their hands, after which he shouted: "Finally we're going to kill them off, the black swine!" According to several local Romani residents, this was not the first time this man has engaged in such an enterprise.
Romani neighbors of the man said he had once thrown a bottle at them from his window across the street and had shouted hatefully at them on other occasions. They also suspect him of having recently fired at them with a popgun, but did not actually see him do it.
"It's just not possible that someone would shoot at us with impunity. It's like a fox hunt. If they were in power here, they would simply murder us all," said the mother of the family into whose open window someone fired the popgun shots.
Testimony by local eyewitnesses
"This was really something to fear, it was not nice at all. It took the police officers a long time to get here. Moreover, neither the municipal nor the state police checked the identification of anyone involved, they just influenced the violent thugs to leave, that was all," one of the "white" occupants of the attacked building told news server Romea.cz.
"I guess there were about 18 of them standing here, I didn't count them exactly. They were insulting Romani people and shouting 'Come outside, you'll die' and stuff like that at them, throwing rocks, picking glass out of the bin, mainly bottles, and throwing it at them. No [police] ever asked to see their identity cards," a female neighbor said.
A Romani woman who heard the racist slogans as she was opening her window said her children began crying after hearing them and could not be calmed. According to her and to several other eyewitnesses, some local police officers greeted the neo-Nazis familiarly and spoke with them as if they were friends.
Another witness claims several people from the neighboring building stood out on their balconies and openly expressed their approval of the neo-Nazis. "After the cops arrived, they instructed us to close our windows and remain in our apartments. One even told me that if I kept yelling at the skinheads he would slap me," a Romani resident of the attacked building said.
"I was cooking and suddenly I heard someone shouting 'Heil Hitler' and racist hollering after that. I went to the window and started shouting at them to knock it off, because some of the people living here are not well. I'll tell you straight up, I have cancer and I am visiting a psychiatrist. Why is something like this going on in this republic? We have never harmed anyone. We are people too, we aren't animals, so why are they treating us like this?" said another female resident of the attacked building, which is home to both Czech and Romani families. "When Romani people do something, they are immediately punished for it, but when a white guy does something the police take no interest. We all have the same responsibilities and rights, don't we?"
The Romani residents claim they are living in fear, as similar undertakings by racists in Děčín have been going on for quite some time and the police do nothing about them. The Romani family who live in the building that houses the Daliborka restaurant is now temporarily living elsewhere with relatives.
Neo-Nazis meet often in the Daliborka and are able to reach the windows of the apartment above it by climbing onto the flat roof over the restaurant's small garden, which is about three meters above the sidewalk. The Romani family is concerned about what might happen there on 24 August.
Racists have planned more than one anti-Romani event for that day across the country, and locals are afraid something similar will take place in Děčín as well, even though no such event has been officially announced to authorities there. Six Romani families have also moved out of the building on Kamenická Street for that same reason.
"The neo-Nazi event on Sunday was not announced and nothing happened to any of the perpetrators. Neither the local nor the state police even checked anyone's identification. The only thing the local police did was to call on the neo-Nazis to leave," Jiří Čureja, who lives in the attacked building, told news server Romea.cz.
An occurrence on Monday confirms that the Romani residents are right to be concerned. A neo-Nazi reportedly turned to one of the local Roma in a shop and told him: "It's not over yet. We'll be back and then you'll see."
Police Director Horák: Local police proceeded correctly
We asked the following questions of Marcel Horák, director of the Děčín Municipal Police:
The Děčín Municipal Police did not interrogate any of the victims at the scene of the crime in order to learn their versions of what took place. Why not? Is this their usual procedure?
According to more than one local eyewitness (both Czech and Roma), the Děčín Municipal Police did not ask to see the identification cards of the assailants. Why?
Eyewitnesses say police did not ask the neighbor who was giving the Nazi salute to identify himself either. Why?
Again, according to more than one eyewitness, some of the local police are said to have greeted some of the neo-Nazis familiarly. Is this the reason the municipal police did not attempt to ascertain the assailants' identities?
In your experience, are there promoters of neo-Nazi or other extremist movements working in the Děčín Municipal Police?
If so, how many do you estimate there are?
Horák responded that the municipal police usually do not interrogate witnesses when cases are being investigated by the Police of the Czech Republic. "When someone from Kamenická Street called and said there were skinheads there, the patrolmen jumped in their cars and drove over there. They stayed inside their vehicles to push the skinheads away from the scene and move them on. At that moment, the state police arrived. It was their job to ascertain people's identities, but the skinheads had already started to leave the scene by the time they got there. I don't know whether the state police officers eventually asked any of them to identify themselves or not. I was also at the scene and I spoke with some of the skinheads, but the debate was worthless because they were drunk," Horák told news server Romea.cz.
The local police director said he considered it highly improbable that the neo-Nazis and local patrolmen would have greeted one another, as in his view the patrolmen were practically never in direct contact with the attackers. Until the state police arrived, the local police reportedly remained in their cars and just pushed the neo-Nazis out of the streets. However, he is not able to say with 100 % certainty that no such interaction occurred.
"Děčín is a small town, some of them might know each other from sports or other occasions. However, among the Děčín police, in my experience, there are no promoters of neo-Nazi movements, that I can say with certainty, and I hope there are not promoters of any other extremist movements either," Horák said.
The Děčínský deník newspaper described these events in its reporting as a "verbal exchange between the two enemy camps". The paper did not give any residents of the attacked building, whether Roma or "white", the opportunity to describe their experience.
That media outlet also reported that the entire event ended with a postscript several hours later. "Several Romani people set out in two cars, allegedly armed with baseball bats, to look around the Old Town for the skinheads who had participated in the verbal exchange," the Děčínský deník reported.
"A local resident of Old Town called us. The patrolmen arrived at the scene and did not ask the Romani people involved for their identification, but just convinced them to let it go. The Romani people listened to them calmly and left the locality," police director Horák told news server Romea.cz.
We also sent the following questions to the spokesperson for the Police of the Czech Republic office in Děčín:
Are the Police of the Czech Republic investigating this case of lawbreaking?
According to many local eyewitnesses (Czechs and Roma) neither the local nor the state police asked the assailants for their identification. Why not? How will the police now determine who committed this crime?
Are the Police of the Czech Republic investigating this as a crime with a racist subtext?
Are the Police of the Czech Republic investigating the neighbor living in the building across the street from the building in which Romani families are living?
Why have the Police of the Czech Republic not yet interrogated the locals who were attacked (Czechs and Roma) as eyewitnesses?
Please respond directly to each individual question.
The Police of the Czech Republic have not yet answered our questions. "We are momentarily evaluating the situation and determining whether what was committed was a felony or a misdemeanor," Police of the Czech Republic spokesperson Pavla Kofrová told the Děčín edition of news server deník.cz.
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