Roma advocacy group suspends police cooperation over neo-Nazi marches|
A leading Roma advocacy group has suspended co-operation with the interior
ministry, accusing the police of going soft on far-right extremism. The
group – Romea - says at several neo-Nazi demonstrations this year police
allowed marchers to shout racist slogans without making any arrests. The
Czech interior ministry denies the claims.
This footage, showing lines of riot police advancing on a demonstration led
by an Orthodox priest, was shot in the Czech town of Krupka in April. The
demonstrators had gathered in the town to stop a group of neo-Nazis from
marching through what is a predominantly Romani housing estate. The march
had been granted permission by the authorities; the demonstration against
it had not; activists claimed it was a religious service, and therefore not
subject to official permission. That fine legal distinction apparently went
unnoticed by police.
There have in fact been several such rallies this year, always held under
an innocuous pretext, always attracting neo-Nazi skinheads, and always
choosing areas which are home to large Romani communities. František Kostlán
monitors neo-Nazi activity for Romea.
“Police have let neo-Nazi activists use openly racist rhetoric at Krupka
and at least two other rallies this year. The speakers were clearly
breaking the law yet the police did nothing. At Krupka and elsewhere
neo-Nazis were allowed to march through Roma areas shouting racist slogans
and the police protected them.”
The footage – which first appeared on Romea’s popular online news
server Romea.cz – was shot by the Romani journalist Patrik Banga. He says
police are clearly choosing sides in the conflict between the far-right and
ethnic minorities, and the wrong side at that.
“The police de facto decided which should have priority – a legal
religious assembly or a neo-Nazi march. And it decided the latter. That
creates the impression that the police tolerate neo-Nazis. And I guess that
impression is accurate.”
The interior ministry’s new director of security policy responded to
Romea’s public criticism over police handling of the marches by
threatening to abolish a working group that had been set up to improve
communication between NGOs and the authorities. The threat was later
carried out. Romea says the official concerned is responsible both for the
change in a police policy and the deterioration in communication with NGOs.
The interior ministry, however, strongly denies it’s going soft on
far-right extremism, saying it remains a high priority. It’s released a
statement defending police actions at Krupka and elsewhere, saying its
primary task is to defend people, property and public order, regardless of
whether the law is being broken by far-right extremists or their opponents.