Anti-Roma Feelings Stirred with Protest in Čakovec

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, June 1, 2019 – About 1,000 people rallied in the centre of the northern town of Čakovec on Saturday for a protest called “I want a normal life”, and speakers at the event pointed to irresponsible, dangerous and criminal behaviour in their community, pointing the finger at state institutions which, they said, had failed with regard to the local Roma community.

After the rally, the Međimurje County police said that their decision to allow the protest had proven to be good and that there was no hate speech or incitement to racial, religious or ethnic intolerance at the event.

Addressing the protesters, Alen Pancer of the civic initiative “The right to a normal life”, said that residents of Međimurje wanted to live a normal life just like other Croatian citizens.

He said that the protest was not directed against the Roma minority and that there were Roma who were hard-working and honest but that an end should be put to the terror local residents had been experiencing on a daily basis. “Seven percent of the (local) population accounts for 70% of crimes in Međimurje,” he said.

“We want to be able to drink coffee in our own front yards, have pets and tend to our gardens but those of us who live close to Roma settlements cannot do that,” he said, blaming political decision-makers for that.

Pancer went on to say that local residents could not rely on police because there were too few police officers and they were unable to protect themselves, let alone other citizens.

The rally was also addressed by a local student, Tin Hrgović, whose posts on social networks led to the initiative for the protest and who said that the rally had drawn people with different worldviews and political preferences who all wanted the same thing – the right to a normal life. “The situation is disastrous and a part of the Roma minority behaves in a criminal way,” he said.

Commenting on accusations that the rally was a racist and nationalist gathering that threatens human rights, he said: “Is it a human right to shoot from an illegal weapon or disturb citizens with loud music, steal or insult. Is it a human right to snatch someone’s necklace from their neck or purse or beat an old woman to death?”

“We must say ‘No’ to this because we want a safe and normal life in Međimurje,” he said.

Hrgović said that responsibility rested not only with individuals from the Roma minority and that the current welfare system was to blame, too. “The money intended for children is used to buy alcohol and drugs and for gambling. What can we expect of those children when they grow up, if their parents behave like that? We in Međimurje know how many Roma live in such conditions, but the rest of Croatia doesn’t,” he said.

He called on social workers to “get out of their offices and go into the field”. “An end must be put to this vicious circle. Dispensing money won’t solve the problem but will only deepen it.”

The deputy head of Pribislavec municipality from the Roma minority, Željko Balog, called on Croat compatriots not to lay the blame on the entire Roma population but rather on irresponsible individuals. “There are Gypsy gangs in (Roma) settlements, but that is not to be blamed on the Roma but on state institutions,” he said.

Speaking of the Roma minority member of parliament, Veljko Kajtazi, Balog said that Kajtazi “does not represent the Roma” and that he had “surrounded himself with criminals.”

Selnica municipal head Ervin Vičević called for hiring more social workers and more police in Međimurje while Pribislavec municipal head Višnja Ivačić said that there was no control of how social benefits and children’s allowances were spent.

After the protest, the Međimurje County police held a news conference at which its head Ivan Sokač said that the decision to allow the protest had proven good. “Međimurje has proven to be, as always, a tolerant region. There was no hate speech or incitement to ethnic or religious hate,” he said.

He stressed that the police had not received any request in writing for a counter-protest, adding that they had issued a verbal reply that no counter-protest would be allowed.

Sokač said that he was satisfied with what had been said at the rally. “Most of the things that were said are true.”

“Six to seven percent of the population is responsible for 70% of crimes and there is a growing number of juvenile delinquents… I hope that increasing the number of police officers will not be the only solution to the problems of the Roma minority. The speakers were right to point the finger at all institutions, including the police,” said Šokac.

More news about the Roma in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.


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