By Jana Vargovčíková and Kristýna Andrlová from Amnesty International Czech Republic
“We are Roma”, “Blacks and whites, do unite!” and “Stop pogroms against the Roma” were slogans that Roma and non-Roma carried on their march last Sunday, 6 October, through Prague’s historic centre. They were joined by their counterparts in 15 European cities– all of them promoting Romani culture, while raising awareness of the racism and discrimination that many Roma face on a daily basis.
As girls in colourful dresses danced in the middle of the Old Town square – full of tourists and election campaigners these days – and as young Romani activists punctuated more serious messages with light-hearted chants of: “Stop the war in Viet Nam”, something close to a feeling of relief spread among the participants.
Only a week earlier, those same Romani activists were the target of a violent anti-Roma march by extreme right-wing groups in Ostrava, Czech Republic, who attempted to attack a residential hotel where many Roma live. Some of the attackers were reportedly supporters of the far-right Workers’ Party for Social Justice (DSSS), running for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
No more sitting back in fear
One of these Roma activists, 21-year-old Imrich Horváth, said that they didn’t want to just sit back and fear for the lives of their loved ones any more. “On the 28th October, when the far-right groups will again be marching under our windows, we are planning to go to the city streets and stage our own Roma Pride,” he said.
As we left the Old Town Square and headed up the hill to the Presidential Palace, Zdeněk and Marie, a couple around the age of Imrich’s parents, explained why they had come: “Today’s action is about bringing a better future for us, so that we don’t have to be afraid when we take the tram, or go to the doctor. When you’re a Roma and go out, people let you know you’re not welcome,” said Marie. “Look, when it rains, it rains for everyone. There are poor people, sick people, unemployed people, both among the majority population and among Roma,” added Zdeněk.
The couple live in Prague, where the Pride took place for the second consecutive year and where the situation has been calmer for Roma compared to other regions, such as Northern Bohemia or Moravia.
Participants commented with surprise that no extreme right opponents showed up this time – unusual, sadly.
“During the last year or so, things have changed, though,” explained Marie. “More Roma are raising their voices, peacefully opposing racism. And I believe that many more will join if this continues.”
Amnesty International continues to support Roma and non-Roma activists fighting against the racism and discrimination Roma face across Europe. Follow our work.
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