The Prague City Hall has said it wants to get homeless people off Prague’s trams, buses and metro. Mayor Tomáš Hudeček said on Thursday he will establish a working group to tackle the problem. The body is to be made up of Prague Transport authority officials, police officers and NGO representatives. Mr. Hudeček said it was not yet clear how many officers and street-workers would be needed to resolve the problem. He said he hoped to see results in the winter of this year. Due to the inadequate capacity of Prague shelters for the homeless many homeless people seek protection from the cold on the city’s public transport.
Michal Babák, an MP and a deputy chairman of the Public Affairs party, responding to a question about the new Finance Minister Jan Fischer on Czech Television and attempting to criticize his predecessor Mirsolav Kalousek, made a provocative statement. He said: “No Jew can be as bad for the state coffers as Kalousek.” It is important to note that Mr. Kalousek is a Catholic, while Mr. Fischer is Jewish. Although a number of politicians have distanced themselves from Mr. Babák’s statement, which he has since defended, no serious repercussions have
MP Michal Babák of the Public Affairs party made an apparent anti-Semitic comment relating to Finance Minister Jan Fischer during a TV debate programme on Sunday. After prefacing his comments by saying they did not contain any racist allusions, Mr. Babák said that no Jew could be worse for the state coffers than Miroslav Kalousek, Mr. Fischer’s predecessor at the Ministry of Finance. The deputy had earlier said that Public Affairs would only back the interim government in a confidence vote if Mr. Fischer thoroughly explained the financing of his failed presidential campaign. In the week prior to his appointment he received over CZK 5 million in donations from sponsors, allowing him to clear campaign debts. Since then the minister has refused to discuss the matter.
The mayor of České Budějovice has called on residents of a district of the city which has recently seen violent anti-Romany protests to contribute to a reduction in racial tension. Juraj Thoma told Czech Radio that his office had attempted to persuade Romany leaders to encourage quieter behaviour; he said they should understand it was unpleasant for people to go to work in the morning after having to call the police at midnight because of high noise levels. On Saturday dozens of protesters were detained as they tried to enter the Romany-dominated Máj housing estate. Tensions were sparked when a fight broke at a children’s playground there last month.
An anti-Romany demonstration scheduled to take place in the south Bohemian city of České Budějovice on Saturday afternoon was called off at the last moment. The organisers, who had originally said they expected around 1,000 participants, evidently decided to abandon the protest when it became clear turnout would be far lower. Later in the day an estimated 300 people gathered near a children’s playground in a district of České Budějovice largely populated by Romanies where tensions first broke out; they attempted to breach a police cordon but were outnumbered.
The police on Thursday charged a third person in connection with last weekend’s anti-Roma rally in the southern city of České Budějovice, a police spokesman said. A 20-year-old man faces charges for assaulting a police officer with a glass bottle. Another two people were charged earlier this week for hurling stones and assaulting officers. The police also said they believe the organizer of the previous anti-Roma rally in České Budějovice broke the law when he called on participants to walk on a local housing estate where some Roma families live.
Officials in České Budějovice organised a public meeting on Tuesday in a bid to resolve racial tensions in the South Bohemian city, which has recently seen two large demonstrations against the Roma minority. The gathering, at a local sports arena, was attended by around 600 people. At the weekend over 150 people were detained during violent protests that centred on a neighbourhood in the city with a high percentage of Roma residents; the clashes followed a fight at a children’s playground there last month.
Over 130 people were detained and eight injured in Saturday’s anti-Romany protests in České Budějovice. Police were out in force across the city, fencing off a demonstration of some 400 far-right protesters from a Roma gathering at the Maj housing estate. The riot squad used tear gas and mounted police to get the situation under control. Special security measures remained in place throughout the night and police patrolled the streets on Sunday. No one has been charged in connection with the street violence.
The České Budějovice city hall is planning steps to diffuse growing racial tension in the wake of more street violence over the weekend. City mayor Juraj Thoma said the city council had decided to hold public hearings on problems of co-existence at the Maj housing estate where citizens could air their complaints or table suggestions. The first of these hearings is to take place on Tuesday. The city has seen a second week of racial unrest triggered by an incident in a children’s playground where Roma and non-Roma parents got into a huge fight. Although the police had the situation under control the authorities fear that racial tension in the city will escalate further in the coming days.
Martin Pecina, who is to serve as interior minister in the Rusnok caretaker cabinet, on Sunday severely criticized the austerity measures that reduced the police force by close to ten thousand officers in the past eight years. He said he would strive to increase their numbers especially in areas where extremism was now proving to be a serious problem. Mr. Pecina said he would like to see Romanies themselves involved in the process of restoring law and order, saying that it was better to employ Roma citizens as police assistants for a proper wage than to give them the same amount of money in social welfare.
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