Sunday, May 03, 2009
In 14 cities across the Czech Republic, about 3,000 people took to the streets to protest neo-nazism and racism today in an event entitled "Enough is Enough."
The demonstrators gathered to say no to the rising wave of extremism and to show solidarity with the Roma community, which has recently been shaken by a near-fatal racially motivated attack that left a whole family -- including a two-year old girl -- severely burned and struggling for their lives.
My whole family went to the demonstration in Prague, where about 350 people participated. The speakers included representatives from Roma and human rights organization, including Amnesty International. Also present was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karel Shwarzenberg, and Prague's Chief Rabbi Karol Sidon, who said he was dismayed to see a lack of politicians attending and supporting the cause, especially as the government has been under heavy criticism for not responding effectively to the rising extremism.
A petition condemning the rise of neo-nazism was circulated and donations to go to the family hurt in the recent arson attack were collected.
Milan Horvath, member of the Roma musical group Bengas expressed in a nutshell the gravity which underlined the gathering: "This is not fun and games anymore. This situation is a matter of life and death."
Martina Horvathova of the Slovo 21 Civic Association, a Roma organization, emphasized that the Czech Republic is home to the Czech Romanies (an important point to make as racists -- and white Czechs in general -- often see the Roma as outsiders or foreigners). Horvathova said that it is everyone's right to feel safe at home and then asked the crowd whether they felt safe in their country. A unanimous "no" rocked the square.
One Roma demonstrator could be heard exclaiming: "They kill our children!" and "We're afraid for our children!" A group of demonstrators briefly joined in a chant: "Away with neo-nazism!"
Radoslav "Gipsy" Banga," a Roma rapper from the internationally known group Gipsy.cz, in his speech urged everyone to stand up with a loud "no" to neo-nazism and violence. He said: "Remaining silent means you tacitly agree."
[a photo of my son with our sign: "Lhostejnost? Už dost!" which rhymes and means: "Indifference? No more!"]