Czech Roma and human rights activists are gearing up to take a stand against racism and neo-Nazism at a demonstration many fear could turn chaotic, even violent. This coming Saturday, March 12, the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) is scheduled to gather and march through the town of Nový Bydžov, the new epicenter of anti-Roma sentiment in the Czech Republic.
The Workers' Social Justice Party says its mission is to stand up "against rising crime." The group's messages have consistently targeted and intimidated the Roma community, against whom the mayor of Nový Bydžov unleashed what some have called "a war on Gypsies" by collectively libeling this ethnic group following a rape of a 21-year-old woman in November 2010 by a suspect who was allegedly a Roma.
"The worst-case scenario," states a press release issued by Freedom Not Fear, a group which supports the counter-demonstration, "would be another attempt at a pogrom similar to the one that played itself out three years ago at the Janov housing estate in Litvínov," a town in the north of the Czech Republic.
Amnesty International, who plans to monitor the event, has just released a public statement urging "the Czech authorities to ensure protection of Roma in Nový Bydžov during a demonstration by the Workers’ Social Justice Party planned on 12 March."
"Following the Mayor’s statement," explains the Amnesty International public statement, "the Workers’ Social Justice Party welcomed 'open and truthful naming of the problem' and announced its readiness to help, including by providing monitoring patrols to the municipality."
The AI document also provides a bit of history on the Workers’ Social Justice Party (DSSS):
The Worker’s Party, the predecessor to the Workers’ Social Justice Party, was dissolved by the Supreme Administrative Court in February 2010. The Court held that its programme led to incitement to national, racial, ethnic intolerance and amounted to an attempt to infringe the basic rights and freedoms of certain groups, in particular the minorities.
Young Greens (Mladí zelení) civic association is one of the groups actively opposing the Workers’ Social Justice Party's message and upcoming neo-Nazi demonstration. In their statement and invitation to all others to stand up against hate this Saturday, the Young Greens explain:
This DSSS action has been convened under the guise of being "Against Rising Crime“. However, we believe, after this country's experiences with similar demonstrations in Litvínov-Janov and Přerov, that in reality this will be a hate gathering intended to exploit the anti-Roma mood in society in order to score more political points for the DSSS and the totalitarian, undemocratic ideas that party represents.
As you all certainly know, a group of mayors recently met in Nový Bydžov and has started calling for the increased repression of people whom this society has learned to generally call the "inadaptable" (often as a front for racism, xenophobia and other generally asocial worldviews) - even though the sociologist Stöcklová asserts that "'Inadaptability' or resistance is essentially a positive value in society. Rejection of that value made it possible for Nazism to prevail in Germany during the 1930s."
The official municipal web pages of the town of Nový Bydžov are shocking in the their anti-Gypsy content. There it is possible to read the completely open claim that "The Gypsies have committed rape!" The hatred against one group of the town's inhabitants culminated in the publication of a document entitled "The Town's Measures" on that website. This generalization about and condemnation of an entire ethnic group on the basis of legal violations committed by individuals is not only something completely unbelievable in the 21st century, but primarily borders itself on being a crime. We continue to believe in the democratic principles of the Czech Republic and in values such as a right to a fair trial, including the presumption of innocence, in respect for human dignity, and in human rights. The behavior represented by the leadership of Nový Bydžov seriously jeopardizes those values.
The problem of ostracizing a certain section of the population, however, does not end in Nový Bydžov. The ideological prevalence of anti-Gypsyism, together with anti-humanism, Europhobia and Islamophobia, is becoming ever more clear in our republic. In addition to the mayors' conference in Nový Bydžov, another possible piece of evidence for this is the recent attempt by Czech Education Minister Dobeš to appoint Ladislav Bátora, a former candidate for the ultra-right National Party (Národní strana - NS), to the post of first deputy minister, as well as the hysterical defense of Bátora by Czech President Klaus, a defense such has never been seen not only in the history of the Czech Republic, but in the history of the state of Czechoslovakia. Thanks to these political attitudes and the often one-sided stereotyping of societal diversity by the most frequently-consumed Czech media, hatred of the Roma community achieved unbelievable dimensions by the end of last year. This must be prevented. It is not possible to just stand by as the internal societal mood of the Czech Republic comes closer and closer to that of 1930s Germany, where it resulted in something everyone is convinced should never be repeated.
We have decided to call you to action, to call on us all and on all our friends to mobilize for active participation in the demonstration against the DSSS march and to express our emphatic disagreement with the growing right-wing extremism in the Czech Republic.
As the news server Romea reports, "strong tensions can be felt among residents of the town."
Regional police say they will increase their patrols in the town in order to protect people's property and ensure order.
The Nový Bydžov is not alone! Initiative, a group which is organizing the counter-demonstration, has called on the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner to actively participate.
The organizers write: "Our gathering is being organized under the rubric of the newly-created Nový Bydžov is not alone! Initiative, whose members include Roma people living in Nový Bydžov and activists who have long been involved in human rights, often working in NGOs focused on Roma rights or other human rights topics." They emphasize the non-violent nature of the planned counter-protest.
If you are in the region, please join all those of good will and take a stand against hate this coming Saturday. More information on the protest here.