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Neo-Nazis clash with police in Litvínov
18-11-2008 - Jan Velinger
On Monday the Czech Republic witnessed some of its worst street violence in recent memory when hundreds of right-wing extremists in the north Bohemian town of Litvínov clashed with Czech police. In the incident, Neo-Nazis veered away from a planned march and attempted to attack a nearby Roma suburb, highlighting long-growing tensions between the local Roma and non-Roma community. The battle lasted some three hours and led to several arrests and more than a dozen injuries.

Photo: CTK Monday, November the 17th, Litvínov: smoke, thrown bottles, tear gas. Scenes of chaos and violence came to the fore as police struggled to subdue the most aggressive demonstrators, some of them badly bloodied. Radicals from around the Czech Republic, many of them supporters of the ultra-right Workers’ Party had gathered in Litvínov for a planned protest march; their attempt to storm the neighbourhood of Janov, largely populated by Roma residents, set off the three-hour battle. Police in riot gear, some of them on horseback, had been given the strictest orders to prevent Neo-Nazis from breaking through and in the end they succeeded. Nonetheless, it was one of the ugliest clashes involving the far-right, says Zdeněk Zbořil, a political scientist specialising in extremist movements. He himself was at the scene:

Photo: CTK “It was worse in person than on TV because many locals joined the right-wing extremists. There were about 500 ultra right-wingers but together with the locals there were maybe more than 1,200. They left in the final push for Janov, but showed support for the extremists until then. They said that it was impossible to live next to the Roma, and that there was absolutely no communication between the communities. So, things have really escalated and in a way it’s ‘too late’. I’ve seen demonstrations were radicals used the Hitler salute, but this is the first time I’ve seen such support from locals – this was something different.”

Photo: CTK Experts have been warning for years about growing right-wing extremism in the Czech Republic, but radical political groups like the Workers’ Party have so-far failed to make inroads into national politics. That doesn’t mean they don’t have support in poorer or troubled areas, like in parts of Litvínov, where tension between the Roma and non-Roma population has increased. Some 300 Roma, were reportedly prepared to defend their turf on Monday with sticks, while some of their would-be attackers were armed not only with cobblestones, but also knuckle-dusters and other items. Had riot police not intervened, uncovering dozens of weapons beforehand, the scenes of violence could have been much worse. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry is considering implementing a ban on the Workers’ Party but not all agree such a decision would be a good thing. Political scientist Zdeněk Zbořil once again:

Photo: CTK “In many ways banning them is the worst thing you can do because you lose control to see what the extremists are doing. A ban only drives them underground and makes them much more difficult to monitor. And it doesn’t bring an end to their activities: they only re-group and come back under a new name.”

A decision on the Workers’ Party could come later this week.



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