The “Mayors and Independents” (STAN) movement in the Czech Republic has called on the Mayor of Poděbrady, Jaroslav Červinka to withdraw as a candidate in the local elections this September because of racist remarks he recently made. During a local assembly meeting, Červinka indicated his support for the idea that Romani people should be shot dead.
“We have adopted a resolution calling on Mr Červinka to withdraw his candidacy,” Marek Michl, chair of the Nymburk district cell of the STAN movement, told news server iDNES.cz. According to a statement yesterday by the national chair of STAN, Vít Rakušan, published by news server Romea.cz, he too will advocate for the mayor of Poděbrady to withdraw his candidacy.
“Our party is based on subsidiarity. I am waiting for the local cell to call on the mayor to withdraw from the candidate list and as chair, in accordance with our procedures and statutes, I will also be advocating for that result,” Rakušan posted yesterday in response to an open letter from Jaroslav Miko, founder of the civil society initiative Czechs Are Helping (Češi pomáhají) and a member of the Czechoslovak Romani Union (Československá romská unie).
Just like the RomanoNet umbrella organization of pro-Romani and Romani NGOs, Miko called for Červinka to be removed as a candidate. RomanoNet is also filing a criminal report against the mayor over his remarks.
Both non-Romani and Romani people also began signing an online petition with that same aim launched by the Romani activist Jan Houška. Renáta Erzsébet Németh, who is an assistant to Rakušan in the Chamber of Deputies, where he is a legislator in addition to serving as First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, said in a debate on Twitter that the board of the STAN movement will also address the issue of Červinka’s membership in the movement.
The leadership of the movement had previously just distanced itself from the mayors’ remarks, saying that the matter was closed and that Červinka’s fate would be decided by the electorate. However, crushing criticism of that decision has been voiced, and not just by Romani people.
Červinka told a story during a local assembly meeting in late June about an accident that allegedly happened in 2001, claiming police had not wanted to deal with the incident at the time because it had allegedly been caused by dogs who were allegedly owned by a Romani man. “I may be one of just a few mayors, or the only mayor, to have been officially reprimanded long ago by the head of the district office for being a racist. I decidedly do not support inadaptables and that reprimand back then was pretty much just a big joke, because I did what I did in front of a member of the Police of the Czech Republic when a traffic accident was being dealt with that had been caused by dogs owned by one of our Romani fellow-citizens. I showed up, identified the owner, and the police backed away, saying they did not want to address it because a Romani man was involved, and I then said my memorable sentence that it would be better to shoot them. The cop told me that they should not be shot, that the dogs could not help themselves, and I said I didn’t mean it was the dogs who should be shot. That was a Friday afternoon. On Monday I was at the police station making a statement about my tendencies to racism and wanting to shoot our fellow-citizens, but that’s not absolutely how it was, it was that I wanted it solved, I don’t want to have to put up with such things. Clutter, dirt,” the mayor said during the local assembly meeting.
Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Klára Laurenčíková Šimáčková called the mayor’s remarks unacceptable. Ivan Bartoš, chair of the Pirate Party in the Czech Republic who is also Deputy Prime Minister for Digitisation and Minister of Regional Development, tweeted that the STAN movement should remove the mayor from the candidate list “like garbage” and added a pictogram of a Nazi swastika being thrown into a trash can.
The mayor reminisced about the episode while responding to local citizens’ complaints about what they described as their poor coexistence with a family of Romani origin. In an interview for Deník N, he apologized and later published an apology to Facebook.