Rumburk has been the scene of unrest today despite the supposed efforts of authorities to keep the peace. The “Civic Resistance” (Občanský odpor) association, which is linked to someone who has previously organized neo-Nazi events in the town, convened a demonstration for today which the town hall banned. However, the Czech Social Democratic party has held its own public meeting at the same time and same place (17:00 CET) on the topic of security in the Šluknov foothills.
Approximately 800 people attended the officially permitted gathering. The crowd was cool toward Czech MP Foldyna (ČSSD), with some even whistling their disapproval of him. Czech Senator Sykáček (ČSSD), who is also mayor, was whistled away from the podium almost immediately. Josef Mašín, a representative of “Civic Resistance”, then took the microphone. The crowd responded to him enthusiastically, with thunderous applause at moments. His speech was a copy of the speeches previously given by members of the Workers’ Social Justice Party (Demokratická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) in the towns of Krupka and Nový Bydžov earlier this year. He repeated the ubiquitous lie that the law is not being applied to everyone equally and that police are “minimizing the criminal activity of minorities”. He also said local police do not investigate crime because they fear Romani people. His speech lasted eight minutes.
An unidentified demonstrator then plowed through the crowd, reached the microphone, and called for the lynching of the Roma. People set out into the streets as police stood by. When the demonstration was officially over, part of the crowd started marching to the locality where local Romani people live. This provocative march had not been announced to authorities in advance and had not been permitted as part of the demonstration, but that evidently did not bother the police, who did not even bother to accompany the crowd as it proceeded.
TIMELINE OF ONGOING EVENTS (cont’d after cut)
19:42 Police have completely underestimated the situation and are calling for reinforcements to come to Rumburk, reports news server Deník.cz. An aggressive crowd is assembling near the Roma homes.
19:33 Police officers are preventing news server Romea.cz correspondents from doing their job. “We were photographing police officers arresting someone and officers wearing numbers 231340 and 318031 started preventing us from doing so even though we showed them our press passes. They are preventing us from reporting on what is going on here,” our correspondent reports.
19:12 The crowd is back on the town square.
19:06 Aggressive ethnic Czechs have thrown tree branches at the Roma home. Czech Television reports that stones were thrown. Police have not intervened. The crowd is again on the move.
18:59 Ethnic Czechs have begun destroying public property. News server Deník.cz reports they have trampled a fence on the property of a Roma home.
18:50 - News server Deník.cz says police have finally intervened and started to disperse the ethnic Czechs.
18:48 - Our correspondent on the scene reports that one of the neo-Nazi marchers is wearing a firearm. Neo-Nazi marchers are now surrounding a Roma home. They are violating the law and restricting the Romani residents in their movements. Police are not intervening. The Romani residents are not responding to the provocation.
18:35 - News server Deník.cz reports someone has thrown a shoe out of a building where Romani people live.
18:31 - The unauthorized march is still proceeding through Rumburk chanting anti-Romani slogans. One member of the police anti-conflict team has told our correspondent on the scene that police officers will not intervene.
18:24 - Local daily Děčínský deník reports that the gathering in Varnsdorf is now over. About 250 people were there. Organizer Lukáš Kohout is promising a march through the town on Wednesday 31 August.
18:15 - Our correspondent reports that several hundred demonstrators have returned to the Roma locality and are shouting anti-Roma, generalizing slogans. “There is not a single police officer in the crowd or on the horizon, not even a traffic cop, to say nothing of riot officers,” he reports.
18.05 - Our correspondent reports that some of the demonstrators set out for the Roma locality, but that most of them soon returned, because the residents of the apartment buildings were holed up inside and no one was on the street. Police allowed those people, fired up by the call to lynching, to get all the way to the Roma homes without any police presence on hand.
17:41 - Demonstrators have set off into the streets as police watch.
17:33 - The daily Děčín deník reports that a demonstrator has jumped onto the podium and started screaming into the microphone that people should take up pickaxes and pitchforks and take to the streets to address the situation themselves. The microphone was taken away from him.
17:30 - Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna has ended the assembly and called on people to disperse. They first whistled at him, now they are singing the national anthem.
17:22 - Our correspondent from Rumburk reports that half of the town square has whistled down Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna. Josef Zoser (Hnutí nezávislých za harmonický rozvoj měst a obcí - the Movement of Independents for the Harmonious Development of Towns and Cities), who is the Mayor of Jiřetín pod Jedlovou and chair of the Šluknov Municipal Association, told the crowd: “We want the perpetrators to be published as soon as possible. We don’t want our wires cut and holes everywhere from missing sewer hatches.” People booed Mayor of Rumburk Jaroslav Sykáček and wouldn’t let him speak. Organizers then permitted a member of the extremist “Civic Resistance” (Občanský odpor) organization to speak, who was applauded for repeating the usual lie that there is a double standard in place that favors the Roma.
17:21 - According to the daily Děčín deník, more than 200 people are also out in the town of Varnsdorf for an unauthorized demonstration. After half an hour they were angered by a speech given by a Romani activist and started to make their disagreement with him known loudly. Riot police officers barricaded the entrance to the town hall and there has not been any violence there yet. Most of the crowd is comprised of local people who emphasized at the start of the rally that they do not hate Romani people but that they want crime addressed.
17:01 - The daily Děčín deník reports that people are turning up on the square in Rumburk who were present during the attempted pogrom on a Romani-occupied housing estate in Janov in 2008. Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna (ČSSD) and Mayor Jaroslav Sykáček (ČSSD) are on the scene. People have torn down one of the police tapes lining the square. The number of demonstrators is growing.
16:58 - About 300 people have gathered on the square. Our correspondent doesn’t see any larger group of right-wing extremists, just individual extremists.
16:22 - Police President Petr Lessy, who has been visiting Šluknov district, is convinced the police will succeed. “We’ll see how many demonstrators come, but we’ll handle the situation,” Lessy said. He is aware that many demonstrations are planned for today in the foothills, both announced ones and unannounced ones.
16:09 - Riot police are preparing for a possible intervention.
15:19 - Police have brought in a special Tatra 815 truck with a water cannon.
15:19 - Traffic police are monitoring the situation, including the trains. A police helicopter is also monitoring.
15:08 - More than 200 police officers will be on patrol today, according to police spokesperson Petra Trypesová.
15:01 - There are barricades on the square. Some shopkeepers are boarding up their display windows. Only a few people are here so far.
14:58 - Police are patrolling the border with Germany and searching cars driving into Rumburk from Děčín.
14:42 - Instead of “Civic Resistance” (Občanský odpor), which is linked to right-wing extremists, today’s gathering in Rumburk is being organized by the Czech Social Democrats.
14:30 - For the time being, concerns that Rumburk might be invaded by racists have not been confirmed. At around 13:00 it was still calm in the town. Local Romani people, however, are afraid, and there are rumors in town that neo-Nazis from Germany will attend. Local Roma prevented the staff of news server Romea.cz from filming them because they do not want to become the targets of attack. Czech Police are patrolling the town and police vans are arriving on the main streets.
ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert