David Tiser says the silence from the major parties is easily explained; unlike Mr Zeman, those parties have an election to fight in two months’ time, and defending the Roma minority is hardly a vote-winner.
But while the skinheads are largely being restrained from reaching their targets by lines of riot police, and while there has been a laudable upsurge in civic activity against the neo-Nazi demonstrations, many observers are worried about the atmosphere of intolerance in the Czech Republic.
“The situation is extremely tense in the Czech Republic at the moment, with far right groups rapidly gaining in influence. Many Roma families … fear for their safety, in particular ahead of demonstrations like those planned for [Saturday]” said Dezideriu Gergely, Executive Director of the European Roma Rights Centre, in a statement issued on Amnesty International’s website.
“We have seen a deeply worrying trend over the past year with entrenched discrimination against Roma reaching new heights. This is a fundamental issue that the Czech authorities can’t ignore,” added John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director for Amnesty International.
And while the summer “marching season” is drawing to a close, there seems to be no letup in sight; far-right groups are already planning another demonstration in Ostrava. It’s scheduled for September 27, and once again marchers will try to reach an area home to a large, socially excluded Romany population.