PHOTO: Protesters throwing rocks in Varnsdorf (PHOTO: Lukáš Houdek)
The Czech Press Agency reports that the STEM polling agency conducted research during the month of October which shows that half of the population believes the main reason for the recent demonstrations in North Bohemia is concern over rising crime. One-fourth of respondents said the demonstrations were mainly against the state's backward approach to the issue.
Approximately two-fifths of those polled said they fear Romani people, while another two-fifths said they do not. More than half of the respondents are not sympathetic to movements promoting violence against Romani people.
Since August, many demonstrations over coexistence with the Romani minority have taken place in towns throughout the Šluknov foothills. Crime has risen in the area, local people no longer feel safe, and they are linking the situation to the arrival of new Romani residents in the region. The active protests by long-term residents were provoked by a brawl during which approximately 20 Romani people clashed with ethnic Czechs leaving a discotheque in the North Bohemian town of Rumburk. Ever since then, the citizens of Varnsdorf in particular have been demonstrating regularly. Police report that ultra-right extremist movements are exploiting this dissatisfaction for publicity.
The STEM poll found that according to 45 % of respondents, the demonstrators are expressing their concern over rising crime in particular, while 26 % said the aim was to draw attention to the state's backward approach to the issue of "inadaptable" residents. A total of 23 % believe the protesters primarily want to criticize welfare abuse, while 6 % believe the aim of the demonstrations is to terrorize Romani people.
The opinion that people want to draw attention to the state's backward approach to these issues was more often shared by left-oriented voters. People espousing clearly right-wing views more often claimed that the protests in North Bohemia were held mainly out of fear over rising crime.
The poll also looked for a relationship between the understanding of the motivations for the protests and general opinions about the Romani minority. When asked whether they fear Romani people, 44 % answered that they do, while 44 % answered they do not.
A total of 53 % of respondents said they have no sympathy for movements or people who use force against the Romani minority, but 23 % expressed encouragement for such movements or people. Approximately one-fourth of respondents chose the answer "I don't know" when responding to that question.
The poll was conducted between 7 and 15 October. The total number of respondents was 1 277 people.
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