Prague Protests Against Racism Target Okamura (SPD)ČTK
Prague, March 17 (CTK) – Dozens of Roma people and their supporters took part in a protest against racism and questioning the Roma Holocaust, staged near the Government Office in the centre of Prague today.
They carried Czech and EU flags and criticised mainly statements by Chamber of Deputies deputy chairman Tomio Okamura, leader of the ultra-right anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) movement. The demonstrators called Okamura a racist who should not be in parliament.
They chanted slogans “Stop Okamura,” “Okamura – Nightmare” and “Down with Okamura.”
However, they also aimed their criticism at PM Andrej Babis (ANO chairman), whose minority government keeps ruling without confidence of the Chamber of Deputies and after its resignation.
A text on one of the banners says “oligarch Babis”, “neo-Nazi Okamura” and “authoritarian (President Milos) Zeman” are creating fascism.
The organisers and other guests recalled in their speeches that ex-President Vaclav Klaus (2003-13) was the first to question the Roma Holocaust. Since then, politicians have had a feeling that this is allowed, they added.
“We do not want to complain only. We want to unite people and find a common ground,” the protest initiators said.
The Bangas band played the Roma anthem at the meeting.
The effort to achieve the Czech Republic’s departure from the European Union poses a risk to the Roma people’s safety, the organisers said.
They also warned of a possible negative impact of the laws on general referendum and direct election of mayors, which the SPD was pushing for.
Okamura questioned the existence of the wartime concentration camp for the Roma in Lety, south Bohemia.
He said in January that the Lety camp had not been fenced. Later, he apologised for his “imprecise” statement about the camp not being fenced. But it was a wooden fence that was mostly not guarded, he added.
“If we do not protest against racism and questioning the Roma Holocaust, such statements would become an everyday practice and the ranks of neo-Nazism and fascism followers will expand,” Emil Vorac, director of the Khamoro organisation that held today’s event, wrote on the the Romea website.
Okamura has nothing to do in the Chamber of Deputies’ leadership, Europe Roma chairman Ladislav Balaz said.
The Museum of Roma Culture, the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) and the Prague Jewish Community condemned Okamura’s statements, calling them the Holocaust denial. Relatives of the Roma Holocaust victims filed a legal complaint against Okamura.
He called the accusation of the Holocaust denial a campaign against his SPD. He said he did not question the suffering in the Lety camp , but that he raised objections to the way of the state purchasing the pig farm built at the site of the former wartime camp in order to set up a commemorative place there.
Opposition MPs also criticised Okamura and were seeking his dismissal as the lower house deputy chairman, but in vain.
MPs for the SPD (22), the Communists (15) and the government ANO (78) except for one did not vote for the agenda of the respective extraordinary Chamber of Deputies session last week. Chamber chairman Radek Vondracek (ANO) said Okamura had apologised and this is why his dismissal was not on the agenda of the day.