Czech town sees hundreds gather to light candles and lay flowers at the scene of Romani man's tragic death after police intervention
At the location in Teplice, Czech Republic where 46-year-old Stanislav Tomáš died on Saturday after police intervened against him, hundreds of people, most of them Romani, gathered yesterday, some even traveling from abroad to pay their respects. The mourners have been lighting candles and laying flowers at the improvised remembrance site.
According to police spokesperson Veronika Hyšplerová, officers have been monitoring the spontaneous assembly. Amateur video footage of the police intervention on Saturday has been circulating on social media.
From that footage it is apparent that Mr Tomáš was physically resisting and shouting and that the officers used force against him, including the tactic of kneeling on his neck. As news server Romea.cz previously reported, the intervening officer knelt on the arrested Romani man's neck for several minutes.
Romani people at the remembrance site have been using social media to call on other Roma to come pay their respects. A bigger remembrance event will be held in Teplice on Saturday, 26 June beginning at 14:00, according to Romani activist Jozef Miker from the Konexe organization, and he also plans to convene a demonstration there next week.
"We want to hold a demonstration in front of the police station next week," Miker said. The police intervention was disproportionate, in his view.
"It doesn't matter what [Mr Tomáš] did, naturally I don't hold with drugs and such, but if a human life is at stake, the person should be treated with care," Miker said. Today the Autonomní akce [Autonomous Action] organization will be holding a demonstration against police brutality in Prague on Prokopovo náměstí at 18:00 in response to the incident.
The group has announced the event on their website. Romani people living as far away as Belgium and Slovakia have now traveled to publicly pay their respects to Mr Tomáš at the spontaneous remembrance site in Teplice.
One such mourner, David Mezei, estimated that more than 500 people had come to light candles there. "This is a peaceful remembrance event and anybody can peacefully express their opinions here," Mezei, who reportedly used social media to call most of the people to the scene, described the assembly to the Czech News Agency.
"We Roma are quite sensitive about such things. This affects us, we feel badly about it," Mezeu told the wire service.
"All of us have seen in the video that this person was harmed, and we did not see any reason why he had to die," Mezei said. Police said on Monday that their officers had responded to an altercation between two men on Saturday afternoon in Teplice.
When the police patrol arrived at the scene, a man was lying injured on the ground. He was agressive, according to police, and bit one of the intervening officers.
The police then used force to restrain him and, according to their spokesperson, called an ambulance. "He then collapsed in the ambulance and despite attempts to rescusitate him could not be revived," police spokesperson Daniel Vítek said on Monday.
Several eyewitnesses at the scene of the intervention, however, are alleging the man collapsed during the police intervention. Any video footage that might reveal how Mr Tomáš was conveyed to the ambulance, or whether he was able to walk to the ambulance on his own, has yet to be publicized and it is not at all clear whether any even exists.
Police themselves have released just one video of what reportedly preceded their intervention in which a man can be seen running down the street and then banging his fists on a parked car. The police have not, however, published any video footage of their own from their intervention, if any exists.
The footage that does exist was posted to Facebook by a resident of a building overlooking the scene of the intervention, but that footage has since been removed from Facebook. Despite being removed from its original location, the video has gone on to live a life of its own on the Internet and has been uploaded to ROMEA TV's YouTube channel.
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