England-style riots feared in Czech Republic’s crime-ridden town

Ethnic tensions in the North Bohemian town of Rumburk, home to roughly 11,000 people, are growing after some members of the local Roma community attacked a group of people on Sunday 21 August. One of the victims was seriously injured.

Mayor of Rumburk Jaroslav Sykáček asked Interior Minister Jan Kubice to solve the pressing security situation in the region. “It is important to enforce police patrols and enhance the authority of the cities,” said Sykáček in the open letter, adding that there is a real threat of people founding vigilante groups. (via Aktuálně.cz)

When "patriots" sing the Czech national anthem, I go cold

"Deutschland, Deutschland über alles", German soldiers sang as they invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. They were patriots singing their national anthem, and they weren’t afraid to lay down their lives for their homeland. It didn’t matter that others died as well - they weren’t Germans, after all…

History teaches us that the worst, most violent crimes are those in which the perpetrators do their best to excuse themselves as serving a higher principle. In the case of Christian and Muslim extremists, that higher principle is religion. In the case of neo-Nazis and racists, it’s patriotism. Racists exploit an otherwise praiseworthy characteristic - love for one’s home country - to play on their one well-known xenophobic note and promote the fear of those considered the enemy. In the case of the Czechs, the enemy has been the “inadaptable Roma” - and now it is starting to look like not only “inadaptable” ones, but all Roma.

The evidence of how effective the racists’ manipulative media campaign has been was Friday’s demonstration against “inadaptables” in Rumburk. Careerists and racists exploited the presence of one-quarter of the town’s residents; their calls for a “solution” to the question of “inadaptables” played on the “patriotic” feelings of the 1 500 otherwise probably respectable people who had been brainwashed by an anti-Roma media campaign. They even sang the national anthem, degrading it to the level of a song by the neo-Nazi band Orlík. Does no one care that the anthem has been abused?

Friday’s demonstration had nothing to do with any sort of legitimate protest against crime. Instead, it targeted all Roma generally. How else can we explain the shouts of “Gypsies get to work”, which spit in the face of all respectable Romani people? What is my father, who worked very hard all of his life in Bohemia, to think of this? What about my father-in-law, who paved the streets in Ústí nad Labem and the surrounding area for more than 40 years? What about that other relative of mine who is a policeman in Ústí nad Labem, or an acquaintance who works at a nursery school as a tutor? Or my other acquaintance, who works as the boss of a travel agency - or my niece, who is a manager in a telecommunications company?

What about all the other Romani people working in the Black and Decker factory in Trmice? Those people, even though their ethnicity is an almost insurmountable barrier in the Czech environment, are doing the best they can nevertheless. Are they also just “Gypsies”?

Shouting “Gypsies get to work” is not only a a mockery of them and the thousands of other Romani people who do work, it is also a mockery of those who would like to work but can’t because there are not enough job opportunities - and because of the racist approach of Czech employers. Respectable people - and it’s all the same what your skin color is - you must understand that you are becoming the tools of those whose ideology is that of interpersonal hatred and whose aim is to establish a fascist dictatorship, which is extremely similar to the dictatorship of communism. Czechs have experienced more than enough of both kinds already.

Friday’s demonstration ended with no physical injuries, even though some people tried to attack a Romani residence. Thanks to the presence of the police, no one was injured. However, people are now asking themselves: What will happen once the police are no longer there? Will Judge Lynch be presiding in the Bohemia of the 21st century?

Josef Banom, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
ROMEA

A round table was held in the Czech town of Rumburk on Wednesday evening between representatives of the town leadership, the Romani community, and Josef Mašín of the “Civic Resistance” initiative (Občanský odpor). Representatives of the Czech Police, municipal police and other municipal authorities were also present. The aim of the meeting was to identify the problems that are harming coexistence between the Romani community and the majority society and to try to find solutions to them.

Czech Police claim to be better prepared for this weekend

Czech Police spokesperson Jarmila Hrubešová announced today that this weekend’s demonstrations in the Šluknov foothills will be monitored by at least 300 police officers. In addition to a rally tomorrow in Varnsdorf, an unannounced march by neo-Nazis is also in the works there. Police say they cannot rule out the possibility that last week’s riots might repeat themselves. Anyone committing racist crime will supposedly be harshly dealt with.

Police are evidently going to rely on the mechanisms that were in place at last week’s demonstration in Varnsdorf. Officers will monitor those driving into town and confiscate any weapons or other dangerous objects. A regional unit of forces and reinforcements from Prague will be out in the streets with an anti-conflict team and municipal patrolmen.

Last week police deployed more than 200 officers to the district, but because demonstrations were taking place simultaneously in Rumburk and Varnsdorf, riot police were delayed in making it to Rumburk when unrest broke out there. Only a police helicopter was available to monitor a 1 000-person strong crowd as it started marching through the town. The helicopter will return to the Šluknov foothills this weekend as well. Last week the mob threw objects at buildings where Romani people live and the most radical elements did their best to provoke a confrontation.

For the time being, the number of police officers to be deployed far exceeds the anticipated number of demonstrators. Only tomorrow’s rally has been announced to authorities and will convene on Edvard Beneš square in Varnsdorf. The rally has been convened by Lukáš Kohout, who is infamous for fraudulently posing as an assistant to former Czech MP Jan Kavan. His announcement of the event estimated that 50 people should participate. “We can’t rule out the possibility that many more people than that will attend the gathering and that disturbances of public order or the commission of racially motivated crimes might occur there,” Hrubešová said.

The Varnsdorf town hall is more concerned about Saturday, when an unannounced march by ultra-nationalists is supposed to take place in the town of 16 000. Neo-Nazis close to the Free Youth (Svobodná mládež) association have begun calling on people to attend. The association, of course, has distanced itself from the event, but a flier advertising it has been posted to other radical right-wing websites. Police are said to be counting on monitoring that event as well.

"We are prepared to immediately and uncompromisingly intervene against the perpetrators of serious crimes, particularly racially motivated ones. Police officers with video cameras will monitor these assemblies and will provide detectives with the necessary evidence to charge any perpetrators," the police spokesperson said.

ryz, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Jarmila Balážov

The Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion has published a summary of its activities in recent months in Šluknov district. The detailed records show what the Agency has offered each town and what the town did with the offer.

Along with a decline in the media attention paid to Šluknov around the problem of social exclusion, given that the situation has somewhat calmed, the Agency says it has unfortunately noted a decline in the preparedness and willingness of various towns to adopt and develop fundamental, important measures aimed at social integration in their areas. Despite partial progress, the Agency reports that most of the towns have been either passive or directly negative toward the proposals the Agency has submitted to them. Communication with the leadership of Rumburk, Šluknov and Varnsdorf is reportedly the most problematic.

Mám za sebou prakticky týden v kuse v práci, vstávání ve tři či ve čtyři.. Na několika místech se dneska ráno držela hustá nádherná mlha 🌁, v Neratovicích třeba ani nebyla od nástupiště vidět návěst odjezdového návěstidla. 🚦 Po vyjetí z mlhy se pak pro změnu ukázaly třeba takto krásné pohledy. Jinak to byla ale neuvěřitelně hektická ranní směna, ani se nedá vypsat co všechno jsem řešil. Nestihl jsem rychlík zpátky 🔙 na Prahu, nečekal na zpožděný R Rumburk - Kolín, tak to zkouším tím zpožděným fo Nymburka, snad tam chytím R nebo aspoň Os. ➡ Praha, abych měl aspoň chvilku na přípravu na akci, na kterou absolutně nechci jet, ale musím. 😞 Většinově jsem ale s prací spokojen, je krásné slyšet a vidět spokojené cestující, vyhrát si s hlášením, které na těchto tratích vůbec nikdo nečeká a podobně. Učím se snad rychle. ☺

Nevím jestli to někomu stálo za přečtení, každopádně se omlouvám že jsem vás v posledních dnech zanedbával, nebyl čas ani konektivita, ještě nejmíň do nedělního večera nebude. Mockrát děkuji za všechna vaše ♥ i milé komentáře a přeji vám ten nejhezčí víkend! ☺ 😉 (at Linka S3/R3 | (Tanvald-Turnov-)Mladá Boleslav-Praha a zpět)

"I was covered in cold sweat. I feared for the Roma."

It took us a long time to get there - lots of time to think about what might happen, and the closer we got, the more my concerns grew. None of us knew what to expect. We made it to the outskirts of Rumburk and I silently gazed through the car window, looking for Romani people. It was around 11 AM and the streets were empty. “I guess they’re all at work,” I said.

We wanted to record interviews with people. The grandmother of one Romani family came out of a building with high gates, followed by what seemed to be her granddaughter, and yelled at us: “Go away, I don’t want problems because of you, they’ll see us on television and destroy us, we’re afraid.” A small child was unobtrusively observing us through the window, standing behind the curtain. When he realized I’d seen him, he immediately pulled the curtain shut. He was very afraid. Grandmother wanted us to leave.

The streets were completely empty. We found a poster put up by the “Civic Resistance” (Občanský odpor) organization in Rumburk, advertising their rally - 26 August, 17:00, Lužické náměstí, Rumburk - with the image of a fist punching out toward the viewer. I immediately photographed it. It seemed very violent to me.

We met a field social worker who spoke with us a while but did not want to be photographed or recorded. She told us a bit about the situation. All that time I kept waiting to see police patrols, but there were none to be seen. Even after 2 PM the streets were empty.

Next we interviewed Mr Gorol from Nový Bor, but he didn’t want to be recorded either, and the feeling of fear started to increase. I kept trying to imagine what was going to happen. We arrived at Lužické náměstí at around 16:00, but it was empty, with only some locals standing around and a few journalists. It was terribly humid and I hoped people wouldn’t turn out. The time for the rally was slowly approaching.

I photographed the square as it started to fill up. There were people of all generations there - even mothers with babes in arms. A small group of body-builder, shaved-headed guys was standing off in the distance. A musclebound gentleman in a black striped shirt with a bodyguard walked by; he gave me look that said “get out of my sight”. I started to be a bit afraid. I had no idea it was Mr Josef Mašin - or rather, someone presenting himself under that name.

At 17:00 the square is half-full. The rally starts. Czech MP Foldyna (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) starts talking. People don’t respond much. Mayor Sykáček (ČSSD) does not succeed in impressing the citizens. Only when the man in the black striped shirt takes the microphone is the crowd overwhelmed. I watch them and photograph it. Mašín says he is there on behalf of the “Civic Resistance” (Občanský odpor) group and then makes his speech: “We must cleanse this place of those scavengers consuming social welfare and finally put things in order.”

The extremists give him their support, they shake his hand. I don’t get it anymore - is this still a ČSSD rally? Some man grabs the microphone and starts shouting “Take up pitchforks against those Gypsies!” The crowd goes crazy, applauding and supporting his words. It felt like being scalded with boiling water. The whole thing took maybe 20 minutes.

What now? The police helicopter has flown away, no officers are in sight. The crowd starts leaving, dividing into several groups. People shout “Let’s go get the Gypsies” and other racist slogans. They roam through the town, about 800 of them all together - boys, pensioners, women with children… looking for Romani people. Police are still nowhere to be seen. I was covered in cold sweat. I feared for the Roma.

The mob made it to a building where a Romani family lives. They shouted racist slogans, “We’ll kill you”… they wanted to lynch them. Some people broke down the fence and threw a wooden plank through the window. At that moment, the police finally arrived with riot officers and surrounded the building. I was photographing everything, holding my breath. A grandmother standing next to me shouted: “Slaughter the gypsy swine!”

I reply: “Did you give them life? I guess you’re God since you have the right to take it from them. Good example for the youngsters.”

One house down the police have grabbed some Nazis who were rioting. I’m taking photos. People are in a trance, they keep shouting racist abuse. The police then detain us, myself and my journalist colleagues, and are rather unpleasant. They give us no explanation. They check our identification and then release us - again, without any explanation.

I don’t understand it. There were mothers there with children in baby carriages, all wishing death on the Roma. Teaching their children to hate. They wanted to purge the town, to take human life. No one did anything to them. The police failed once again.

We all stopped talking. I felt enormous anxiety and helplessness. I was glad the building the mob had attacked was empty.

We left town, disgusted. On our way home, Robert Ferenc of the Čačipen association called: “Please come to my place, there’s a family here from that building (where the mob wanted to lynch someone).” We go there. The meeting with the family? I was heartsick. I have children, and I fear for them the most. This was too much. A nine-member family, with infants in carriages, had fled on foot for 14 km through the forest to Krásná Lípa. They feared for their children’s lives. People had threatened to liquidate them. One lady’s neighbor reportedly threatened her by saying: “Are you a Czech? You aren’t a Czech, you belong to them, tonight you will die with them and with the children. Neither the doors nor the windows will keep you safe, we will kill you all.”

This family is not one of troublemakers. They have nothing to do with the violence that took place not long ago in Rumburk. I will never forget the fear in their eyes, it broke my heart. Their children were crying. The municipal authorities advised them to go into hiding with friends or relatives. The police did nothing. No one helped them. Once again, the burden is being born by people who have done nothing wrong, by the most vulnerable - families with children. Where is the protection for the most vulnerable? These people can’t return home because someone has decided to take their very lives into his own hands. These people are living in fear. What will happen tomorrow? If we all enjoy the right to life, why is it like this?

My feelings from Rumburk? Great sadness, helplessness, fear - and no help anywhere. Mr Mašín wants to cleanse the town of the scavengers of social welfare. That’s hard when there’s no work. Social welfare is just alms, it’s very hard to live on it. The money is not enough for children to be educated, to have hobbies, to learn about culture, to get special instruction. That’s not cheap, but no one is paying attention to that anymore. It would be much better, I believe, to to do our best to figure this out, to understand it, to face up to these problems.

Mária Zajacová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
ROMEA

Lynch mob besets Romani neighborhood, Czech Police let them

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
ROMEA

[Source: Romea.cz]

Report from Rumburk

"Don’t worry, it’ll be fine", I said to my fellow reporters as we got on the tram in Prague last Friday. Later in the day I said the same thing to correspondent Radek Horváth when I picked him up in Děčín.

By 10:30 AM Friday we were sitting in a restaurant on the outskirts of Rumburk. Horváth and I were to meet other people there interested in the rally schedule for that afternoon. Robert Ferenc of the Čačipen association showed up and we set out into the field.

"Go film somewhere else, I don’t want problems here!" a local Romani woman told us, chasing us away while other Romani people peered out the window in curiosity. She was obviously afraid, lamenting our presence, shouting as she tried to get us as far away as possible from the building where her family lives. I understood her fear. The town was full of rumors that hundreds of Nazis from Germany were heading there.

Around lunchtime everything was still calm. The town did not seem to be preparing for a demonstration. All we noticed were a larger number of municipal police officers on the streets, but that could have been the result of the violent brawl that had happened there a few days prior, not a sign of events to come. We decided to speak with locals about the situation.

We tried asking people for details about the murder that had taken place several days before, as well as for details about the people responsible for the brawl that past Sunday. We got only bits and pieces of information. Nobody wanted to talk.

We then set out for Nový Bor [where a machete attack had taken place in a local gaming room] to find out how the situation was developing there. We didn’t see any police patrols on the way, just a few police vans evidently heading for Rumburk.

In Nový Bor the situation seemed to be just as tense as in Rumburk. I was prepared for a situation like the time Radek and I filmed our report about the rent defaulters on hunger strike. There wasn’t a lot of time, so we made use of lunchtime by talking with locals and visiting Štefan Gorol [of the local Romani association]. Nothing has changed in Nový Bor with respect to the tensions. Everyone had their say, but no one stood up for the alleged assailants, and everyone agrees they should be punished.

At around 3:30 PM we were heading back to Rumburk. We made it there in short order. There was still nothing about the town square to indicate that a rally would be taking place there soon. Firefighters were watering down the space and there were only a few people around. Journalists were meeting up in a nearby ice cream parlor. However, we could see guys whose appearances reminded us of [right-wing extremist demonstrators] from Krupka or Nový Bydžov [earlier this year]. Later, a small podium was set up on the square, and just before 5:00 PM people started pouring in. The journalists headed for the podium. I took a few photographs and looked around. There were a few more shaven-headed guys wearing “Everlast” t-shirts, but the people in front seem to be dissatisfied citizens of the town, not extremists.

The rally started and Czech MP Foldyna (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) spoke. The crowd was very cool toward him, with a few exceptions. Mayor Sykáček (ČSSD) was whistled down by the crowd and subjected to unprintable curses.

Next a musclebound guy took the microphone and gave his name as Josef Mašín. He twice claimed not to be an extremist, but the extremists in the crowd were giving him as much support as the could. The Civic Resistance (Občanský odpor) group to which he belongs was the original convener of a rally at that same time and place, but their event was not permitted by the town out of concerns that extremists linked to the group would attend. The local Czech Social Democrats resolved the issue by hosting the meeting themselves, having their cake and eating it too. Mašín’s emotional speech earned the most applause of all.

The rally ended several minutes later and the crowd dispersed. We also left to send a few photographs and a short text to our editors. A few minutes later, everything was different. Our correspondent who remained on the scene called to tell us a march was underway. The mob was apparently shouting that they were going after “gypsies”.

We caught up to the march several minutes later. Several hundred people were marching through the town shouting racist slogans. I looked around for police, in vain. Evidently they believed a three-person anti-conflict team was enough for the mob, which I estimated was about 600-800 people strong. There were neither traffic cops nor riot police anywhere.

The mob reached a building where one of the participants in the recent brawl allegedly lives, destroying a fence along the way. Police on the scene prevented the mob from breaking into the building, and the building owner also showed up at the scene. The tenants, however, were not at home. They had already fled the town because their neighbors had threatened to lynch them. Most of them had nothing to do with the recent brawl.

Eventually we made it around to the other side of the building. Police had barricaded the intersection there. In the distance we spotted riot police in action, so we ran in their direction to record what was happening. A completely banal intervention was underway, the arrest of a marcher who didn’t obey police instructions. I took photographs while the marcher fought the police. The next thing I knew, my colleagues and I were being detained by police because of my photography. We were later released without any explanation.

By then it looked like the street fighting was over. We returned to the press room where the police spokesperson was.

A bit later we learned that the Romani family from the building surrounded by police was spending the night 14 km away with relatives. We drove there and filmed an interview with them for news server Romea.cz.

Organizers let the situation in Rumburk get completely out of hand. What happened there can definitely not be called a “peaceful demonstration”. The marchers were shouting racist slogans and had only one goal, to terrorize Romani residents and expel them from town. In the end, as always, those who had never done anything wrong suffered the most.

Patrik Banga, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
ROMEA

Only Symbolic Fines Levied After Spree...

Friday’s demonstration in Rumburk, originally convened to protest violent crime, deteriorated into streets full of locals blaming Romani residents for that crime. Reporting on the event continues to fill the pages of the Czech print media and radio and television broadcasts. Some reporters are warning that the long unresolved situation in socially excluded localities has escalated and is raising tensions among Romani people themselves, some of whom live in social exclusion. Other media outlets are reporting that politicians are responsible for events in Šluknov district and admit their responsibility.

The Czech Press Agency has published a report summarizing Friday’s events in Rumburk. Five people were detained; police have classified their offenses as misdemeanors (such as disobeying police) and have handed them over to the municipal authorities. When the brief demonstration came to an end, the roughly thousand-person strong crowd set off on a march past homes occupied by Romani residents and did its best to provoke conflicts with them.

"All five persons detained were charged with misdemeanors. They are now being processed, which means the charges are being handed over to the municipality," said Vojtěch Haňka, spokesperson for the Děčín Police, adding that the municipal misdemeanor commission could levy fines as high as CZK 1 000.

The crowd was shouting racist remarks about the Roma at a certain point and some people were even giving the Nazi salute, but police did not intervene against them until later. Police claim their delayed response was because there were too many children marching in the crowd for them to intervene safely. Protesters threw various objects through the windows of houses and also destroyed a fence. After the police intervention, the unannounced march turned into street warfare during which a small group of the most radical demonstrators did its best to attack a particular building from various sides.

The demonstrators wanted to revenge themselves against the residents of the building, who allegedly took part in an incident on 21 August, when a group of as many as 20 Romani people beat up six Czech youths. That incident was the match that lit the fuse of the already edgy atmosphere of ethnic friction in the town. A total of seven people have been charged in that incident, all of them with racially motivated battery; three of them have been charged with attempted grievous bodily harm and are in custody.

The Czech Government Inter-ministeral Commission on Roma Community Affairs, or rather the Romani members of that Commission, have issued a declaration on the situation in Šluknov district. In it, they condemn the individual perpetrators of both of the recent alleged felonies [i.e., the attacks in Nový Bor and Rumburk]. However, they also warn that it is not possible for the public to turn their opinion against all Romani people just because of the ethnic origin of these particular perpetrators, just as people cannot try to take justice into their own hands. The Commission called on the Czech PM to have the Czech Interior Ministry investigate the actions taken by police directly at the scene of all of these incidents. The Romani members of the Commission also distanced themselves from statements made by Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková, the chair of their Commission, who last week compared the brawl in Nový Bor where machetes were used to the planned arson attack committed by neo-Nazis against a Romani family in Vítkov in 2009.

Czech Press Agency, jb, translated by Gwendolyn Albert ROMEA

Czech Republic: Romani residents protest in Rumburk against yesterday's pogrom

Approximately 30 Romani people in Rumburk have met on the square to protest against yesterday’s unprecedented behavior by a mob of ethnic Czechs who marched through the town and did their best to attack local Roma without police intervening. The mob attacked a Roma-occupied home and destroyed a fence surrounding it. "We are protesting against what happened here yesterday," a demonstrator on the square told Czech Television. The man also said many families had fled Rumburk prior to the mob’s spree yesterday.

VIDEO
Romani residents protest in Rumburk against yesterday’s pogrom

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
ROMEA

[Source: Romea.cz]

Czech Republic: Municipality and police refused aid to Roma threatened with murder

"On Friday evening a nine-member Romani family contacted me asking for help. They said their neighbors in Rumburk were threatening them and they were afraid," Robert Ferenc of the Čačipen civic association told news server Romea.cz. "They had already fled their house before noon. They walked through the forest and made it here to Krásná Lípa, where I asked other Romani people to take care of them."

The Romani family, which is not connected to any of the recent incidents of violence recently committed in Šluknov forest, is terrified by the current situation. “Our neighbor threatened to kill us. He said we would all be dead by nightfall, including the children,” the mother of the family told internet television channel ROMEA TV. She is an ethnic Czech and her husband is Romani.

The family did their best to contact the police and the Rumburk town hall, but no one would help them. “They told us we should leave and hide, that it didn’t matter where we went,” the woman described the scandalous advice given by the town hall. “The police told us to shut ourselves in our home and to call them if someone happened to bang on the door,” she said, adding that their next advice was the same as that from the town hall: “Leave and hide somewhere else.”

The family says other Romani people have been forced to flee Rumburk as well.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
ROMEA

[Source: Romea.cz]

Czech Republic: Seven charged in Rumburk assault

Today police arrested and charged 25-year-old Kamil Cepero in connection with the attack allegedly committed by 20 Romani people last Sunday against a small group of local people in Rumburk. Cepero turned himself in to the Pardubice police station during the early morning hours. He has been charged with battery, with racially motivated attempted grievous bodily harm, and with rioting, Děčín police spokesperson Vojtěch Haňka told the Czech Press Agency. Two other alleged assailants have also heard charges against them and are in custody. Another four Romani males are being prosecuted over the attack, three of whom are juveniles.

On Sunday a statewide warrant was issued for Cepero, whom police suspect was one of the central figures of the entire attack. Police transported him from Pardubice to Děčín, where he was interrogated. “In the afternoon he was charged with the same crimes as the others,” Haňka told the Czech Press Agency. Cepero is still in detention and the decision will be made tomorrow as to whether he should be taken into custody.

Police say a group of as many as 20 Romani people attacked six other youths in the early morning hours of Sunday as they were leaving a bar. When the youths hid in a building, the assailants broke down the doors and beat one man with a collapsible truncheon. The incident has sparked tensions between long-term residents and the socially deprived persons who have recently been moved to North Bohemia by real estate agencies.

Racially motivated attempted grievous bodily harm carries a sentence of up to 12 years in prison, but so far only Cepero and another defendant have been charged with that crime, and a third defendant who could face those charges is still a juvenile. Lighter charges including battery and less serious offenses have been filed by police against another four Romani males, three of whom are also juveniles.

The situation in the region has been calmed by the deployment of 50 riot police, who have been patrolling the streets of Nový Bor, Rumburk, Šluknov and Varnsdorf for a second night. Local police praise the presence of the riot police and crime is said to have significantly decreased. For the time being, police officers have noted only one significant incident of theft: Four youths allegedly robbed a physically disabled man of his fanny pack on the street in Varnsdorf yesterday afternoon. The man was robbed of his bank card, documents, MP3 player and wallet, a total loss of roughly CZK 1 200. Police officers arrested all four alleged perpetrators this morning, but because they are minors, their case will be deferred.

Last night police officers checked the identification of 300 people and searched 109 vehicles, during which they discovered four persons who had statewide warrants issued for them. Two other wanted suspects were discovered during the first night of patrolling.

Czech Interior Minister Jan Kubice and Czech Police President Petr Lessy will visit Nový Bor, where Romani people also recently committed a violent attack, and the Šluknov foothills this evening. They will meet with town mayors and regional police directors of police from Liberec and Ústí regions.

fk, ryz, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
ROMEA

Source: Romea.cz

Prague, Sept 21 (CTK) - Peace returned to Rumburk, north Bohemia, after weeks of unrest since Romany patrols started watching problematic Romanies in the town to prevent their crime, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes yesterday.

Rumburk is one of the largest towns in the Sluknov border area, adjoining Germany and Poland, where tension between Romanies and the majority population has been growing.

The situation in Rumburk escalated in mid-August when up to 20 Romanies assaulted six members of the majority population in Rumburk. Two weeks earlier a group of Romanies armed with machetes attacked people in a bar in nearby Novy Bor.

In reaction to the violence, local residents have convoked several anti-Romany demonstrations in Rumburk and other towns in the area that right-wing extremists joined.

MfD writes that after the first anti-Romany demonstration in Rumburk, local Romany Jan Demeter, 44, who enjoys respect among Romanies in the town, along with his common-law wife Hana Olahova and cousin Albert set up Romany patrols to secure the public peace.

Demeter thereby wanted to prevent members of the local Romany community from provoking an even stronger aversion of the “white” population by their thefts, robberies and brawls, MfD writes.

The Romany patrols, whose voluntary members have passed a secondary school-leaving exam at least, are checking gambling rooms and talking to Romany families to explain the situation.

The patrols have been successful and the town hall supports them, MfD adds.

Demeter said he convoked a meeting of local Romanies who elected him their spokesman and he pushed through the patrols.

"We are visiting families to calm down Romanies and persuade them to behave as decent citizens, not to make a mess and send children to school. We are tough towards them and if they do not obey, we will scrap their benefits," Demeter, who calls himself Romanies’ mayor on his Facebook profile, told the paper.

The most problematic Romany families in Rumburk are newcomers who moved to prefabricated houses in one street on which Demeter’s patrols primarily focus, it adds.

Last week Demeter, his cousin Albert and Olahova also established the Romany Association Rumburk. They are to discuss their further activities with the town hall’s officials and the police yesterday.

"We are in daily contact with the (Romany) patrols that are monitoring crime in their community," Rumburk Town Hall spokeswoman Gabriela Dousova told the paper.

She added at yesterday’s meeting they would discuss how to develop the project, what the town expected from them and what it can offer to them and vice versa.

MfD writes that unlike Rumburk, the situation in nearby Varnsdorf, which has faced similar problems with Romany crime, has not improved and stormy demonstrations and brawls with the police occur there every weekend.

Last Sunday, a local Romany was threatening guests to a restaurant in Varnsdorf with a machete. The police accused him of making dangerous threats and of hooliganism on Tuesday and he faces up to three years in prison if found guilty, MfD recalls.

Yet Varnsdorf does not have such problems with Romany newcomers who were relocated to local dormitories like in Rumburk. Most Romanies in Varnsdorf have grown up there and they have nowhere to move, MfD notes.

The Varnsdorf Town Hall is also considering establishing Romany patrols, the paper says.

"However, there is no natural authority (like Demeter) among Romanies in Varnsdorf," deputy mayor Josef Polacek told MfD.

(source: Prague Monitor)

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