Over the last few years, Roma have been subject to frequent police brutality. The root of police brutality against Roma is antigypsyism, a specific form of racism against Roma stemming from a distorted perception of Roma communities among majorities all around Europe. Systemic racism towards Roma has resulted in the death of Stanislav Tomáš – a young Roma, at the hands of police in the town of Teplice, Czech Republic. The Czech police tried to frame the incident as a use of legitimate force, claiming the young Roma was under the influence of addictive substances and broke the law. According to the police statement, the reason for the detainee’s death was the use of addictive substances.
Regardless of the way the events unfolded, we, as members of Roma communities from across Europe, as well as our allies, condemn this type of behaviour from law enforcement authorities, which run counter to the European principles and values of respecting human and minority rights.
A lot of Europeans hide behind a perceived moral superiority over the United States, pointing fingers and deflecting the inherent racism that also exists in Europe. As a transnational Roma movement, we call for joint solidarity in protecting the democracy, lives and freedom of Roma. We know that it is not enough to post hashtags without looking more deeply into systemic racism. Our freedom has been under a constant threat. They have made us slaves, expel us from our homes, torture and punish us when we speak our language, take away our children, sterilise and exterminate us so we have no future. The Second World War was a peak of our suffering. The hostility and violence that our Roma ancestors suffered unfortunately continues until today. If we want it to stop, we need to act now.
Europe is built on the oppression of marginalised communities and it is time for states to not only recognise the existing racism in our history, society, culture and institutions – but to finally address this appropriately, through reparations and other means. Still, today, racism and police brutality against Roma in Europe is rampant, with COVID19 measures violently enforced in these marginalised communities.
In the last two years, we have witnessed police brutality cases all over the Europe:
- Three Roma from Bitola, North Macedonia in September 2020 were beaten by police officers
- Roma advocacy groups have called on the Romanian President to fire the Interior Minister following the publication of video footage of police assaulting a group of Roma men in the south of the country.
- The High Court in Belgrade ruled in the first instance that the police mistreated the Roma
A better future for Roma
A real democratic society is one without police brutality. We should not feel unsafe in our own communities or endangered by law enforcement because of the color of our skin, prejudices, stereotypes and racism. We are concerned about the increasing use of surveillance and police powers, which are rooted in prejudice and violence. The system is racist, and the transnational Roma movement will work on dismantling racist structures, and oppose the far right, fascist and populist parties and movements. We call on our members to join our battle for ending police brutality.
The following are the changes we want to see:
- We demand for an independent investigation to be conducted in regards to Stanislav Tomáš’s death
- Accountability and justice – police officers need to be held accountable for unlawful practices that lead to disproportionate measures against members of minority communities
- The expansion of the number of Roma hired among law enforcement
- Stronger checks in the hiring process of police officers (i.e. to ensure they are not tied to far right, fascist and populist organisations)
- Addressing the culture of racism that exists in policing institutions and providing anti-racist training for police officers to dismantle prejudice
- The end of racial profiling of any kind to ensure that every citizen has the right to be treated equally by law enforcement agents
- The creation and mandate for independent institutions to investigate police crimes, like civil society-led police review boards
- Responsible police officers using means of force as a last resort
- That pandemics or crises, like COVID-19, are not used as a mandate for police authorities to abuse their power and violate the civil rights of people who are unfairly and disproportionately targeted by authorities.
Racism kills! Uncontrolled racist police kill. Institutional racism kills. Our justice systems must act now!