Convening shortly after noon today, approximately 2 000 people set out from the Břeclav train station to express support for a 15-year-old boy who was brutally beaten last weekend by three allegedly Romani men. One of the conveners of the event was the right-wing extremist Workers’ Youth (Dělnická mládež – DM), some of whose members are neo-Nazi sympathizers.
Immediately after the start of the march, the DM and the Workers’ Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti – DSSS) seized the initiative to transform it into an anti-Romani event. The crowd then divided into two groups on the square, one listening to DSSS leader Vandas and the other engaging in discussion with Mayor of Břeclav Oldřich Ryšavý.
Demonstrators started assembling just after noon in front of the building of the main train station in Břeclav. At 13:00 they set out on a march to T.G.M. square and back. The event was scheduled to end at 15:00.
The original plan was to prevent demonstrators from accessing Romani neighborhoods in the town. The public spaces on two squares and 11 streets were reserved by the pro-Romani initiative Hate is No Solution (Nenávist není řešení). Together with Břeclav residents who disagreed with the neo-Nazi march, the initiative held an alternative event, a common lunch for all citizens of Břeclav without prejudice, on the lawn in front of the elementary school at Sovadinova 3.
ON-LINE REPORTING IN REAL TIME
16:28 – The situation in Břeclav is completely calm. Our on-line reporting is over. Thank you for your attention, we will report more information in an article summarizing today’s events.
16:02 – Volunteers from the IQ Roma servis association have been in the Romani locality all afternoon. “Tensions between the majority population and Romani people here are palpable. Many various groups are marching around the town right now. One small group of people was here, but they seemed more like drunks to me. They were carrying open beer bottles, some even had to be carried themselves. The police handled it and have the situation under control, it’s quiet here. IQ Roma servis and the Břeclav Roma hope the perpetrator of last weekend’s incident will be apprehended as soon as possible. Events like this one today just escalate tensions further,” Wail Khazal of IQ Roma servis told news server Romea.cz.
15:30 – A rambling group of people is now in Riegrova street. According to our information they are not radicals, but local youths who have been fortifying themselves with alcohol.
15:21 – The police anti-conflict team is convincing the neo-Nazis in Riegrova street to disperse.
15:19 – Czech media outlets are reporting that the organization of the demonstration was completely chaotic.
15:15 – The organizers of Sunday’s shared lunch in front of the elementary school have now arrived in the Romani locality in order to support the residents. They have unfurled their banners inside one apartment building.
15:12 – News server Novinky.cz is reporting that as many as 3 000 people participated in the march to support the injured boy. “However, the radicals experienced a fiasco, as no one was interested in the speech by the head of the Workers’ Social Justice Party, Tomáš Vandas,” writes the news server, referring to the fact that the crowd on the square divided into two parts.
15:06 – The neo-Nazis are verbally assaulting Romani people with racist insults. Cries of “Gypsies to the gas chambers” and similar slogans can be heard.
14:59 – Our correspondent reports that the riot police, without using force, have pushed the neo-Nazis away from the vicinity of the buildings occupied by Romani residents in Břeclav. Police have now entrenched themselves at the intersection of Husova and Riegrova streets.
14:53 – Oxana Zhyvachivska, the mother of the injured boy, has spoken to people on the town square in front of the town hall. “Thank you for coming out in such numbers,” she said.
14:47 – The crowd of neo-Nazis in Riegrova street, which is predominantly inhabited by Romani people, has grown by about 100. Police are calling on the neo-Nazis to disperse. Riot police are slowly moving against the crowd.
14:39 – News server tn.cz reports that the former Mayor of Břeclav, Dymo Piškula, has suggested that the state should force every Romani person to work.
14:36 – A group of about 30 neo-Nazis has separated itself from those returning to the train station and entered a street in the Romani neighborhood. The riot police are forming themselves into ranks to prevent them from attacking local Romani residents.
14:34 – The demonstrators leaving the square are now verbally assaulting the organizers of the lunch in front of the elementary school in Sovadinova street.
14:32 – News server Tn.cz reports that the organization of the protest march has failed. The crowd on the square is now chanting anti-Romani slogans.
14:22 – Some residents of Břeclav are remaining on the square to discuss the situation with the mayor. The number of participants is falling as people go home.
14:16 – Our correspondent on the scene reports that after a small group of about 15 neo-Nazis tried to get into Romani-inhabited buildings, a riot police van immediately arrived in the locality.
14:01 – The crowd on the square has divided itself into two groups. The larger group is standing with Mayor Oldřich Ryšavý in front of the town hall. The other group of demonstrators is standing near Tomáš Vandas and listening to his speech, during which people in the crowd are shouting harsh racist insults about Roma. Vandas has also attacked the mayor. “He’s a yellow-belly afraid for his seat. My fingers are crossed for you, throw out your mayor,” Vandas told his supporters.
13:55 Mayor of Břeclav Oldřich Ryšavý has repeated his request for residents to distance themselves from the right-wing extremists. The crowd has whistled him down. The mayor also told the crowd that police patrols in the town will be reinforced.
13:54 – The local Břeclavský deník has quoted Jan Neugebauer, the organizer of the alternative Sunday lunch in support of the beaten boy, as saying: “We are against racism, we don’t want to provoke the Břeclav residents, and we do not like how the Workers’ Youth has exploited today’s event.”
13:52 – South Moravian Governor Michal Hašek has been on the scene since morning. Prior to the start of the march, he told the Czech Press Agency that he firmly believed Břeclav residents would not be incited to displays of anti-Romani sentiment during the march. Unfortunately, the residents of Břeclav never heard that statement.
13:47 – The right-wing extremists are continuing to take advantage of the march in support of the injured boy to perform political agitation and collect signatures in support of the presidential candidacy of their leader, Tomáš Vandas.
13:38 – Demonstrators on T.G.M. square want Mayor of Břeclav Oldřich Ryšavý to speak.
13:34 – Small groups of neo-Nazis are wandering around Břeclav. Some are driving through the Romani localities. Our correspondent on the scene says these isolated, violent neo-Nazis pose a threat to Romani residents. The police helicopter has stopped monitoring the square and is monitoring the situation elsewhere.
13:31 – The local Břeclavský deník reports that some of the people on the square do not know the DM and DSSS are taking advantage of the situation. “I live in Břeclav, I heard about the attack, and I joined to express my support for the idea that people can’t just do whatever they like here, whether the assailants were Romani or not,” said resident Jaroslav Jeřábek. He said he had no idea the march had been convened by the DM.
13:26 – The situation on the square is unpredictable. DSSS leader Tomáš Vandas wanted to make a speech, but a large portion of the demonstrators ignored him and moved away, taking up positions in front of the town hall, where they are discussing the situation with the mayor. Vandas has tried to speak to the crowd, but the original organizers of the march, the friends of the beaten boy, don’t want him to speak, our correspondent on the scene reports.
13:20 – News server Tn.cz reports that prior to the march, police officers found loose paving stones stashed away along the announced route.
13:16 – The march, led by the neo-Nazis, has made it to T.G.M. square.
13:11 – Banners are being carried that read: “Gypsies, you’ve fucked up”, “Let’s stop gypsy terror”, and “While the town hall sleeps, the gypsy murders”.
13:08 – The neo-Nazis are chanting: “Where are those whores?”
13:07 – The local Břeclavský deník reports that police officers in front of the train station have determined that one of the neo-Nazis is carrying a tonfa. People are starting to chant the racist slogan “We want a white Bohemia” and to whistle.
13:04 – The march has transformed from one in support of the beaten boy to a racist march against Romani people. People are carrying signs reading: “How nice it is when no gypsies are in town”, “Only in Bohemia is the nation terrorized by an ethnic minority”. Some are chanting: “We don’t want them here!”
13:03 – The local organizers of the march have managed to halt some of the demonstrators. Only right-wing radicals are heading to the town square.
13:02 – The right-wing radicals are ignoring the local organizers and are leading the march through the town. The local organizers are doing their best to stop participants from marching with the DM and DSSS, but the radicals are continuing to escalate the situation and doing their best to provoke people to join the anti-Romani protest.
12:58 – Petra Vedrová, spokesperson for the South Moravian Regional Police, told the Mediafax press agency that “We estimate the number of marchers at 2 000 people for the time being, of whom about 150 are radicals.”
12:52 – The number of marchers is rapidly rising. News server Tn.cz reports 2 000 people standing in front of the train station. Some are starting to chant anti-Romani slogans.
12:44 – The predominantly Romani localities of Břeclav are completely calm.
12:37 – About 1 000 people are standing in front of the train station. Our correspondent says the crowd includes both local residents and right-wing radicals. People are chanting and whistling.
12:32 – Police have not yet noted any incidents. “Most people are mobbing the train station, but we have not yet noted rioting or anything like that,” the local Břeclavský deník reports South Moravian Regional Police spokesperson Petra Vedrová as saying.
12:29 The correspondent for news server Romea.cz reports that a group of about 20 locals has just verbally assaulted him because of his skin color. “Luckily they just attacked me verbally,” he reports.
12:26 – About 30 people are on the lawn in front of the elementary school in Sovadinova street holding a protest against neo-Nazis in Břeclav and in support of the beaten boy. They are having lunch together and holding banners that read “Hate is No Solution”, “Stop Nazis” and “Only three people are guilty”.
12:18 – The DSSS has taken advantage of the march in support of the beaten boy to distribute political propaganda and gather signatures for the candidacy of Tomáš Vandas for President of the Czech Republic.
12:13 – The first demonstrators are meeting up at the train station. The leader of the DSSS, Tomáš Vandas, can be seen standing in front of the vestibule.
10:40 – In the Romani localities of Břeclav there is total calm, nothing is happening. “Many police officers are patrolling Břeclav. Vans with riot police in them are driving around, the police helicopter just flew by a moment ago,” the Romea.cz correspondent reports from the scene.
ryz, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert