Prague - About 100 Romanies and their friends from the majority society, mainly young people, took part in the first Roma Pride march held in Prague today.
The participants carried banners reading "Hatred Is No Solution," "Roma Pride" and "Demolish Pig Farm at the Site of Romany Concentration Camp in Lety," hinting at the the fact that a pig farm is still on a part of the site of the Nazi wartime internment camp for Romanies in Lety, south Bohemia.
Romany children were singing in the crowd and shouted: "We Are Proud." Tourists passing by were waving at them.
The Roma Pride marches were scheduled in another 14 European towns for today.
The march was to point to the situation of the Romany minority. The Romanies´ integration policy has often failed and a number of Romanies end up in "ghettoes" without education and jobs. Moreover, anti-Romany moods are escalating in society, the organisers recalled.
Miroslav Broz, from the Konexe association organising the event, told CTK that along with the march a panel debate would be held to focus mainly on the relocation of Romanies to dormitories, the pig farm in Lety, the segregation of Romany children in special (now practical) schools for slightly mentally disabled and the strengthening of anti-Romany attitudes in society.
Romany children living in dormitories in Varnsdorf, north Bohemia, where anti-Romany demonstrations were staged last year, arrived in Prague to take part in the march.
Romany boys were rapping and girls were dancing to the rhythm of Romany songs on the embankment of the Vltava (Moldau) River in the city centre. Children prepared the dance and music performance in free-time clubs.
"Romanies had their pride before the coup (1989 Velvet Revolution), but they lost it. We are trying to restore their pride," Cenek Ruzicka, deputy chairman of the Party of Equal Opportunities, told CTK.
He said Romanies had survived only thanks to their pride. He added that he cannot remember Romanies living a worse life than now.
The SOS Prednadrazi group presented an appeal addressed to the Ostrava Town Hall, north Moravia, and the government. It calls on them to solve the situation of the inhabitants in the Ostrava´s Prednadrazi locality (mainly Romanies) who have to move from it.
"We are very concerned about the case. We call on political representatives to quickly push for a solution - either to make the houses inhabitable or secure an acceptable housing according to international standards," the group members said.
Citizens can sign the appeal on www.sosprednadrazi.cz.
The programme culminated with an ecumenical mass celebrated by Romany priests in a church in the Old Towns of Prague.
Policemen watched the march but they did not have to interfere as no incidents occurred.
Some 250,000 Romanies live in the 10.5-million Czech Republic, according to estimates. One third of them stay in ghettoes under inconvenient living conditions where the adults are jobless, children attend special (practical) schools and families are completely dependent on welfare payments.
According to an analysis, over 300 "ghettos," or excluded houses, streets and neighbourhoods, existed in the Czech Republic where up to 80,000 people lived six years ago. Experts say another 100 excluded localities have emerged since then.
Activists rally in European cities to support Roma
PARIS (AP) -- Anti-racism activists, Gypsy musicians and others have gathered in European cities to protest violence and discrimination against Roma and celebrate their culture.
Dozens of people participated in the "Roma Pride" event on Paris' Left Bank on Sunday. Organizer Benjamin Abtan said a march was held in central Prague, and there were conferences in cities from Bulgaria to Denmark.
He said "we are a demanding a Europe-wide fight against racism and discrimination" and "to celebrate the diversity of Gypsy culture, which is an integral part of European culture."
The events come amid tensions in France over what to do about makeshift camps of Roma in cities nationwide. Police routinely clear out the camps. Residents in the southern city of Marseille recently burned down a Roma camp after blaming them for burglaries.