People living in the Šluknov foothills will be taking to the streets to protest unaddressed crime. The last such demonstration in the region was six months ago.
The demonstration convened for 19 July in the town of Šluknov, however, seems to be significantly different from those that took place in the region last year in that it has been convened by mayors in the area. They say they are primarily bothered by the Government’s posturing on the issue and that it is not addressing the situation. Josef Zoser (HNHRM/PRO kraj), chair of the “Šluknov Area Development Association” (Sdružení pro rozvoj Šluknovska), gave the mayors’ perspective to the Czech Press Agency.
Last year’s demonstrations against crime were probably the most-publicized events in this region in the northernmost corner of Bohemia, attracting the attention of the whole country. After a series of skirmishes between the majority society and Romani people in the district, local people ran out of patience. More than 1 000 people attended the first demonstration at the end of summer, attempting to provoke clashes with Romani residents. Nationalists from all over the country then started exploiting the demonstrations for publicity and the protests degenerated into street battles with police. The situation gradually calmed down and the demonstrations began to involve more local activists. The last such protest was supported by about 200 people only.
The mayors, however, say their problems with security persist. “Only two out of 16 mayors won’t be participating. The others have agreed that we do not intend to wait to see whether the Government will respond to our proposals. If the proposals can’t happen, they should tell us – they’re just playing possum now,” Zoser said.
The mayors have convened a demonstration for 19 July in the northernmost town in the Czech Republic, Šluknov. “We mayors will be standing up on the square, we’ll see how many people join us,” said Zoser, who insists the root causes of last year’s inter-ethnic tensions have not been addressed. “The continuation of business activity in the market for apartments and residential hotels for the poor is an enormous problem. This is big business for some people, which is why the authorities tell us nothing can be done about it. That’s bad,” Zoser said. He believes that if the situation is not addressed, the Šluknov foothills will continue to become a dumping ground for “inconvenient” people.
The Government previously claimed the situation would be resolved through various legislative amendments, including ones to tighten welfare conditions. However, the Government also rejected a package of amendments proposed by Ústí Region which were reportedly aligned with what the Government is promoting. The Ústí amendments concerned introducing a registry for misdemeanor offenders, increasing punishments for misdemeanors, restricting gaming rooms, and restricting the numbers of apartments paid for by the state.
Security in the largest towns in the region has been improved through the deployment of police units who patrol at night. At first police were commuting to the area from different parts of the country, but this spring a local unit was created for the Ústí Region.
Czech Press Agency, ras, translated by Gwendolyn Albert