Yesterday afternoon yet another anti-Romani demonstration took place in Varnsdorf, attended by approximately 100 people. The protesters do not want Romani tenants to live in the prefabricated apartment buildings on Kovářská and Pražská streets, alleging there is a risk that a new “ghetto” will form there.
The protesters signed an open letter to the Czech Government on the issue. A march on Romani dwellings in the town was originally announced by convicted con artist Lukáš Kohout, an active organizer of anti-Romani protests in the area, but in the end it did not take place because too few people were interested.
Petr Heinrich, who convened the gathering, read the text of the open letter out loud to the crowd as well as letters from dissatisfied residents in the prefabricated apartment houses. “I have lived in Kovářská street for 20 years and the situation is already unbearable. Eight people are living in a studio apartment. Dogs are running around the building who don’t belong to anyone,” one woman wrote.
The building, which was reconstructed only a year and a half ago, now has graffiti on the facade and damage to its main doors. The protesters said there are also problems with the garden at the local nursery school, which must be constantly cleaned of trash.
In their letter to the Government, the protesters are demanding that the cabinet concern itself with their request to prevent the creation of a “ghetto”. However, the Government will find it difficult to do anything with those demands, because the apartments in which the Romani tenants are living and into which more Romani people are moving belong to a private owner. The protesters’ letter also includes demands for changes in welfare policy so that housing contributions for poor families cannot be paid directly to landlords.
Some ethnic Czechs gathered on the square clearly had even more radical demands. “The Czech state should do its best to make sure we remain the majority here. Welfare should be paid only to whites,” the local daily Děčínský deník quoted one protester as saying. A van from the so-called “Holešov Appeal” (Holešovská výzva) of the National Council/Real Democracy (Národní rada/Skutečné demokracie) groups seeking the resignation of the current cabinet was also present at the anti-Romani demonstration.
One hour after the start of the assembly, convicted con artist Lukáš Kohout called for everyone to march through the town to the Sport residential hotel and the apartment buildings on Kovářská street, but Heinrich distanced himself from that appeal. Kohout was a central figure in most of the local protests last summer, which culminated on 10 September with neo-Nazis attacking the police, who responded to the aggressive crowd by deploying firecrackers, mounted police and water cannon. Since not enough people on the square yesterday were interested in marching with Kohout, no march took place.
ryz, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert