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Sunday, 10 April 2011

Czech Police brutally disrupt religious gathering of hundreds of Roma people (Czech Rep)

Today on the streets of the Czech town of Krupka (population 15 000) promoters of the extreme-right Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) and the neo-Nazi groups Autonomous Nationalists (Autonomní nacionalisté - AN) and National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO) held a demonstration. At one point along the route of the neo-Nazi march, a religious service was held and attended by several hundred people, most of them Roma. Police brutally intervened against the service with truncheons, beating even the clergyman leading it, according to eyewitnesses. A total of seven people were arrested.

The DSSS demonstrators, whose flags and other symbols made it clear they were predominantly extreme-right sympathizers, gathered at the train station to march into the town. Police estimated their numbers to be roughly 150 total.

The open-air religious service was held at the entrance to the Maršov housing estate in Karel Čapek street and was attended by hundreds of Roma people while hundreds more watched from their windows. After minutes of tense waiting, police units brutally dispersed the religious service, beating the clergyman who was leading it.

According to police spokesperson Jarmila Hrubešová, police based their intervention against the religious assembly on a legal analysis from the Czech Interior Ministry which asserts that while religious gatherings do not have to be announced to the authorities, they are still subject to the law on assemblies. Hrubešová said the analysis asserts that announced assemblies take priority over religious ones.

Police officers also brutally intervened against Roma people who were merely standing on the sidewalks. Bystanders were driven back to make way for the neo-Nazi march.

"Police arrested a total of seven people. Four were arrested at the time of the incident, primarily for not obeying police orders," police spokesperson Ilona Novotná told the Czech Press Agency. Three other men were arrested by police before the march ended; one man was arrested in the crowd after giving a speech, and two other people were arrested after a brawl.

"The first man arrested was a foreigner who gave a speech showing indications of racial intolerance. We waited to arrest him until the march reached a more convenient space. Two other people were arrested for attacking a public official and not obeying a police officer," Novotná said. The Czech Press Agency reported the arrested foreigner was a Slovak national.

DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas gave a speech to the demonstrators prior to the start of the march in which he warned of alleged "reverse racism" in the Czech Republic. He repeated the claim after marching through the Maršov housing estate.

Hundreds of police officers oversaw the situation in the town, including a helicopter crew and mounted officers. "The forces of order have roughly 300-400 people there, and a total of about 700 police members were involved in the action," Novotná told the Czech Press Agency. Police officers also confiscated 15 various weapons during their searches around the site of the confrontation and in people's cars, from baseball clubs to tonfas to a machete.