Support for the Roma people in Glasgow
Support for the Roma people in Glasgow
Conrad Landin writes about a vigil, a silent support in memory of Stanislav Tomas, a Roma man. Hhe died after a brutal arrest by police in the Czech Republic.
Credit: Conrad Landin
Glasgow’s south side is home to thousands of Roma from Slovakia, Romania, and the Czech Republic. Govanhill, a working-class district of Glasgow, celebrates International Romani Day each April with a carnival atmosphere.
But with the blue, green and red banners there was sadness on Thursday, as Roma activists and residents met to ask for justice for Stanislav Tomas. He died in June 2021 in the Czech town of Teplice after a brutal arrest by police. A video shows an officer kneeling on Tomas’s neck for four minutes, when the 46-year-old was unconscious. The press has not reported very much about his death so far, but the officers’ actions are similar to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
Czech authorities do not accept that they are similar, saying there has been ‘No “Czech Floyd”’ in a post on Twitter. Police said the arrest was lawful and there was no connection with the death. Police said that a doctor was there at the time of Tomas’s death and he said it was probably drug-related, and the autopsy showed there was no possibility that police actions caused the death.
In Glasgow’s Queen’s Park, three Roma women led the vigil, organized by the community group Romano Lav. They asked local and international communities to reject the police’s story, and fight to keep Tomas’s death in the public eye. Sonia Mikhalewicz is a Roma resident of Clydebank, to the west of Glasgow. She said Tomas was ‘murdered by police… same like George Floyd’. She said, ‘We demand justice for Stanislav Tomas and his family, and for all Roma in the world. The police say he was on drugs. That does not mean they can take a life, because nobody can take a life, no-one in the world. It is only God who can take and give a life.’
Rahela Cirpaci lives in Govanhill and is a Romanian Roma. She agreed. She told the small crowd. ‘Even if he was on drugs, why does that matter? Does this give the police the right to smother him alive?’
‘Stanislav’s death was clearly a result of deep racism,’ she said. ‘We all need to work together and demand this murder is investigated. If we do not do something, then no-one will.’
Jana Pushkova is a Czech Roma from Govanhill. She was pessimistic about an investigation. ‘In my opinion, from my experience, I can’t imagine a situation where they punish the police for what happened,’ she said. ‘What we’re seeing in the Czech Republic is like what happened in America with George Floyd.
‘I feel this is something that was definitely intentional. The police in the Czech Republic have a feeling that they are protected… in these types of actions.’
Roma communities face discrimination across Europe. In a 2018 study by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, over half of Roma people who answered questions from the Czech Republic said they experienced hate-motivated harassment in the past 12 months. This is the highest of the nine European states in the study.
Jana Pushkova said she felt ‘at home here in Glasgow because I don’t feel the same threat of racism as I do in the Czech Republic’. Community relations in Glasgow’s south side are quite good, but that has not stopped racists – often from outside the area – from trying to cause problems. In May’s Scottish Parliament elections, former Britain First deputy leader, Jayda Fransen stood in the area against Scottish National Party First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Outside a polling station on election day, Sturgeon told the far-right Fransen,‘You are a fascist and a racist and the south side of Glasgow will reject you.’
Fransen received just 46 votes. Just a week later, the area made national headlines again when a big demonstration successfully got the release of two Indian-national residents threatened with deportation by the Home Office. Getting justice for Stanislav Tomas needs action across the world, but Glasgow’s south side will be sure to play its part.
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(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)