MEPs liken killed Roma in Czechia to George Floyd

People hold banners during a rally called by Roma organizations to honor a Roma man Stanislav Tomas who died after police officers held him in the Czech Republic, in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
By Lucie Ctverakova
3 Min Read

Many MEPs likened the Roma who died in the Czech town of Teplice after police intervention to African-American George Floyd. In the November 23 debate on Roma discrimination and police violence against Roma, some MEPs pointed out that while the death of Floyd caused a media firestorm and widespread protests, especially in the United States, almost no one talks about the fate of the Czech Roma.

The Czech police previously stated, based on an autopsy report, that there was no connection between the police intervention and the death of Stanislav Tomáš.

On June 19, police intervened in Teplice over a clash between two men who had also damaged several parked cars. The 44-year-old Tomáš then died in an ambulance. A police spokeswoman said in October that, according to the expert’s report, the death was directly related to meth intoxication. However, the family’s lawyer does not agree with this conclusion.

“Stanislav Tomáš, a European citizen, a Roma citizen, a citizen of the Czech Republic, died after a brutal police operation. He was suffocated,” said Spanish Member of Parliament Juan Fernando López Aguilar of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party.

“I would like to mention the case of George Floyd with one difference – that there were no voices in Europe, no movement with the “I can’t breathe’ slogan,” added the Spanish MEP, who said the Roma were victims of systematic attacks.

European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Shinas also noted that if there were no MEPs, Tomáš would probably not have been a subject of discussions at all. Shinas added that, as was the case with Floyd, a policeman was kneeling on the neck of the Roma.

Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli said she has high expectations for the findings of an independent inquiry into police intervention, led by Czech Deputy Ombudsman Monika Šimůnková.

“Violence against minorities is not acceptable in 21st-century Europe,” Slovenian Foreign Minister Anze Logar said in Tuesday’s debate.

During the debate, MEPs gave further examples of Roma being the target of police violence. They mentioned the 2009 case in the Slovak city of Košice when police officers forced a group of Roma boys to strip naked and slap each other. Slovak MEP Peter Pollák, from the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) party, noted that the victims, at the time, did not receive justice in Slovakia, and there was no punishment for the police officers. Lawmakers also mentioned the death of Slovak Jozef Chovanec, who died after a police intervention at a Belgian airport in 2018.

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