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Extremist groups aim to benefit from social unrest in North Bohemia
05-09-2011 - Jan Velinger
The security situation in parts of North Bohemia, where tension between the Roma and non-Roma communities has been rising for weeks, failed to improve at the weekend – just the opposite. An illegal demonstration against the Roma community again tested police, who on Saturday blocked almost 1,000 participants from making their way to a local Roma settlement. Allegedly organised by a neo-Nazi group, the protest is seen as evidence that extremist groups are trying to exploit the deteriorating situation for their own ends.

Demonstration in Varnsdorf, September 3 2011, photo: CTK The situation in several towns in North Bohemia - Varnsdorf, Rumburk, Šluknov – has been described as increasingly explosive and there were signs at the weekend things are only getting worse. Since tensions flared up over an increase in local violence in recent weeks, police in riot gear have been out in force to prevent incidents between local Roma and non-Roma communities from getting out-of-hand. And although they have so far succeeded, the picture at the weekend was far from pretty. On Saturday, hundreds of people in Varnsdorf took part in a demonstration organised by a neo-Nazi group, to march to a local Roma area. Ten participants were charged with misdemeanours and four with crimes – including the propagation of Nazism in the form of a pro-Hitler T-shirt, an act which carries a sentence of up to three years in prison. Police spokeswoman Jaroslava Hrubešová described additional incidents:

Demonstration in Varnsdorf, September 3 2011, photo: CTK “There were people who tried to attack police officers, who vandalised a police vehicle, or refused a police order.”

According to the police and extremism experts, the most recent demonstration – and one planned for next weekend by the ultra right-wing Workers’ Party for Social Justice – is evidence that extremist organisations are trying to manipulate and escalate tension for their own ends, while benefiting from increased media attention. On Sunday, deputy police president Vladislav Husák suggested on Czech TV the one danger was that the kind of intolerance and anger now visible in North Bohemia could spread.

“The situation, which grew worse over the summer in the Šluknov area, could –under certain impulses and with the passing of time – crop up in other parts of the Czech Republic.”

Romanies in Varnsdorf, photo: CTK While the police weigh their options and consider where to redouble their efforts, some sources reported that politicians are hoping that current anger between the Roma and non-Roma will eventually boil over. Public broadcaster Czech TV, for example, stressed that Prime Minister Petr Necas is putting stock in the government’s social reforms to improve the situation, slashing benefits that until now have easily been abused. Proposed, for example, are strict limits to receiving welfare; the argument goes that some complaints between communities will level-off once the reforms kick-in. The opposition Social Democrats, strongly against plans by the current government, though, are far from convinced; arguing that the problem of intolerance, mistrust and potential violence on a rise in North Bohemia will not be solved by “repressive” measures alone.

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