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Analysts warn of “ethnic war” as local people cheer neo-Nazis in Litvínov
20-11-2008 - Rob Cameron
The Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek added his support this week to calls to ban the far-right Workers Party, following the worst violence in the country for eight years. The clashes erupted in the town of Litvínov on Monday, when some 600 neo-Nazi skinheads tried to march on a housing estate inhabited by members of the Roma minority. But the sight of local people cheering on the skinheads and urging the police to let them attack their Romani neighbours has led some to warn of a looming ethnic conflict.

Photo: CTK A war of words in the town of Litvínov - about 80 km north of Prague - as neo-Nazi skinheads come face to face with local Romanies, the two groups kept apart by cordons of riot police. It wasn't long before the verbal clashes escalated into something far more serious, as police fired stun grenades and tear gas at the crowd of some 600 far-right demonstrators.

The day began with a legal although heavily policed gathering organised by the Workers Party, a small far-right party with links to neo-Nazi groups. It started out peacefully enough, but the situation deteriorated when organisers called on the crowd to march on a local housing estate in an area of Litvínov called Janov. The estate is home to a large number of low-income Romani families, whose Czech neighbours have long complained about noise and dirt.

Video footage showed some of those neighbours standing and cheering the neo-Nazis, with several dozen even joining the march. This is from a video clip posted on the Romani news server romea.cz

http://www.romea.cz/romeatv/

Photo: CTK The crowd is shouting “Let Them In!” “Let Them In!” – in other words calling on the riot police protecting the Roma to let the skinheads attack them. They later shout “They’re Coming For You!” at their Romani neighbours standing a few metres away. Local journalists claim some local people allowed skinheads to store their weapons in their apartments days before the march, and then sheltered the skinheads from the police. All this, say groups who monitor far-right extremism, is unprecedented. Klára Kalibová is a lawyer for the group Tolerance.

"Something changed in Janov. It used to be a problem of several hundred neo-Nazis marching in the street, but in Janov it was a real fight, and a fight which was supported by common people of the Czech Republic and that's the problem. So there is something very wrong. I cannot predict - very seriously - developments, but I can say the situation is very critical."

Photo: CTK And if nothing is done, what happens?

"It could lead to violence, it could lead to killings, it could lead to inter-ethnic war."

And that view has been echoed by several observers, including the leading sociologist Ivan Gabal, who writes in his latest blog that the Czech Republic is entering an era of ethnic conflict. That remains to be seen, but the Worker’s Party is already threatening to hold new marches - in Litvínov, the notorious Romani ghetto of Chanov in Most, and even Žižkov in Prague, for decades home to a large Roma minority.



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