Some 500 members of majority population came to an anti-Romany demonstration in the north Bohemian town of Varnsdorf this afternoon, local police spokeswoman Jarmila Hrubesova told CTK Saturday. However, the police blocked the road of the marchers to the hostel mostly inhabited by Romanies and then the anti-Romany protest was dissolved. There were no incident during the march, but the police detained two persons, Hrubesova said. One of them shouted racist slogans. He had with him two cobblestones and was drunk. The other man, an extremist from Prague, had racist signs tattooed on his arm, she added. If convicted, both of them can be sentenced up to three years in prison. The demonstrators were joined by members of extremist groupings, but they only constituted a minority of the crowd, Hrubesova said. The march stopped about 50 metres before the hostel where the police had formed a barrier. At 15:15, a town hall representative called on the demonstrators to disperse, but they did not obey. Instead, the crowd went past the hostel and was heading to the town centre.
"The other march was not announced and since it is illegal, we will ask its participants to go away. Those who will disobey will be taken to the police station," Hrubesova said. The rally started with the Czech national anthem, followed by other songs. Some protesters demanded that the mayor of Varnsdorf resign. By staging the demonstrations, the locals want to attract attention to their plight. They seek changes in the legislation and criticise the government for being indifferent to the problems in north Bohemia. They unfolded a big banner saying "Necas has no time for us." Prime Minister Petr Necas has not been to north Bohemia since the situation came to a head in the area, but unofficial sources say he will go there next week. Tension between the majority society and Romanies has been escalating for some time in a northern Bohemian border area, including the towns of Novy Bor, Rumburk, Sluknov and Varnsdorf. Locals say the crime rate is rising because of Romanies who have recently been moving to the area.
In August, two violent incidents occurred and the police are prosecuting several Romanies. Locals protested against the violence but the situation is being used by extremist groups that started organising protests in the area. The police are checking cars on the roads leading to the town and patrolling outside the local railway station. Some 30 minutes before the beginning of the rally, the police detained 14 men with suspicious tattooing, Hrubesova said. "We arrested nine of them at the railway station and the rest throughout the town over the suspicion of various delicts. Some of them did not have identity cards and we found knives by some of them," Hrubesova said, adding that the police did not find any weapons during the car checks. The demonstration was preceded by a public meeting called by the town hall. The local cinema building was filled by hundreds of dissatisfied and angry local people. They criticised the town hall over a lukewarm approach to the problem as well as the police. Here, too, the mayor and the whole town hall were asked to step down. The protesters demanded more rigorous payment of welfare benefits, a reduction of the places in hostels and more support to public works.