A man on the ground, police officers on him, one blocks his feet, another seems to press his knee on his neck, another tries to handcuff him. Around the voices of passers-by and people at the windows: “They are suffocating him”. A few minutes later the man stops moving. It is not George Floyd, but the Czech Roma citizen Stanislav Tomas. And the video circulated on social media that portrays the scene, which reminded many of the death of the African American killed during a violent police stop in Minneapolis in 2020, has sparked controversy in the Czech Republic, where the fact took place, in the town of Teplice. A story that is causing debate, also for its still obscure points, which for activists would be yet another demonstration of the systemic racism that the Roma community faces every day in the Czech Republic.
A spokesman for the Czech police said the officers intervened following a report on two men fighting and damaging parked cars on the street and once there they were confronted with an injured and half-naked man who rebelled against the agents. aggressively, forcing them to use “coercive measures”. The official version of the authorities is that the death of the man, who according to the police used drugs, would not be linked to the intervention of the police: according to the preliminary autopsy, the man would have taken amphetamines and the examinations would have detected pathological changes in the coronary arteries. The police later released another video showing a man on the ground, half naked and in an evident state of agitation, who then lashed out at another person and then punched the window of a nearby car.
For the police, therefore, no parallelism with George Floyd, but for the Roma community the death of Stanislav Tomas reflects something else. “If he had already been arrested and his hands were handcuffed behind his back, why did they kneel on him for the next three minutes? It’s something I don’t understand,” Michael Miko of the Romanonet association said, commenting on Teplice’s facts to the Bbc. For Gwendolyn Albert, an activist and member of the Czech Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs, the connection with George Floyd’s death is evident. “The police version of what happened emphasizes that the man who later died was using drugs. If there hadn’t been the witnesses who took the video of the incident, people would not have been around. knowledge of what you can has happened, “he told al Guardian. What happened, however, is still not entirely clear. According to the online magazine Watchdog In the video, an officer would be seen pressing his knee not on Tomas’s neck but on Tomas’s shoulder blades and back, in what is called normal police procedure in similar cases. But the videos circulating – one lasting 27 seconds and one more than five minutes – would be only two snippets of a longer episode. There are also no videos of Tomas being loaded into the ambulance, where he was later pronounced dead. We will have to wait for the autopsy to find out the causes of Tomas’s death.
In the street where the event took place, candles, banners and tributes to Stanislav Tomas have appeared in recent days. Someone left a black ribbon with the words “Na romských životech záleží” (ie “The lives of the Roma matter”) while a demonstration is scheduled for next Saturday in Teplice. From Amnesty International and the Council of Europe, the information portal on the Roma community Romea.cz reported, requests have been made to the Czech authorities for “impartial and thorough” investigations into what has happened.
Tim Gosling su Balkan Insight he recalled that “the history of the minority across the country is littered with horrific examples of abuse, including forced sterilization and school segregation. Prejudices in the housing market have created Roma ghettos where living conditions are barely sustainable. About half of the 250,000 Roma in the Czech Republic are classified as ‘socially excluded’ in government reports. ” According to a 2012 survey by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), cited by Guardian, Czech Roma, along with Roma in Italy, are the most discriminated against at work, with over 60% of respondents claiming to have suffered discrimination at work due to their ethnic origin, while in 2015 Amnesty International denounced “systematic discrimination towards Roma children in the country’s schools.
Interior Minister Jan Hamacek spoke about the events in Teplice and did so by expressing his “full support” to the police officers, as well as Prime Minister Andrej Babis. For Gosling, “the political response to Tomas’s death reflects the reluctance of Czech society to acknowledge these problems, let alone try to address them”, saying he is skeptical that Stanislav Tomas’ affair could trigger a movement similar to Black Lives Matter to defend the community. Czech Roma “from the discrimination and brutality that that minority faces on a daily basis”. Gosling points out that “putting aside doubts about police actions, as well as the most basic empathy, the vast majority of comments see what happened as the simple case of a Roma criminal who got what he deserved.” In 2016, a 27-year-old Roma – indicated only by the initials MD – died after being blocked by police outside a pizzeria in Zatec, just 50 kilometers from Teplice, in circumstances that again raised doubts about the operation. of agents.