Racist youths attack people on the streets of Prague

Prague, 13. 9. 2005, 12:03 (CTK)

Attacks by young skinheads in Prague do not have to be aimed "merely" at people of a different skin colour but also at those that simply happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, writes the daily Mlada fronta Dnes in its Prague regional supplement today. What may seem particularly horrifying is the young age and brutality of the offenders.

A man from Prague whose appearance does not seem to make him an obvious skinhead target was hospitalised with serious injuries after he was attacked by a young skinhead. The man became the object of the skinhead's ire when he objected to the young brute's racist slurs. The man has since acquired a handgun for self-defence.

Only last weekend three skinheads, aged between nineteen and twenty-four, attacked a Romany man and his pregnant wife in the Narodni trida subway station in downtown Prague. Prior to that, the three skinheads had been almost incessantly shouting the Nazi salute on the streets. Soon dozens of Romany men appeared on the scene and a wider clash was avoided only thanks to a timely intervention by the police.

"The trio was accused of harming the health of others and of supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing the rights and freedoms of an individual. They are criminally prosecuted without apprehension," police spokeswoman Iva Knolova told MfD.

A mere day later an eighteen-year-old youth sprayed gas into the face of a dark-skinned foreigner and stabbed him with a knife. The incident occurred in broad daylight in Ciglerova street in Prague 9.

"The eighteen-year-old youth faces a prison sentence of up to ten years," said police spokeswoman Daniela Razimova. Psychotherapist Michal Kolar told MfD that some parents tolerate the pastime of their skinhead children because they are under the impression it helps bring order.

"They may then covertly or even overtly support their child in its attitude. More commonly, the families simply resign to the fact or don't even know what their child does in its spare time," Kolar told MfD.

Skinheads also benefit from the fact that they all look alike, sporting shaved heads, similar clothes and heavy boots. "It is hard to prove who specifically was kicking somebody, who lashed out strikes with his fist. Only few of them end up in court," Prague state attorney Martin Omelka has said earlier. Omelka prosecuted skinhead Petr Zbornik for stabbing a Sudanese student to death in 1997. Zbornik received a thirteen- and-a-half year jail sentence for his deed.

Another factor working in the skinheads' favour is human indifference combined with the fear of witnesses. Psychologist Karel Blaha, an expert on crisis situations, told MfD that it is not always advisable for witnesses of verbal assaults to directly intervene.

"You have to take into account that few people will come to your aid. The provoking groups often just need someone to come forward for them to pick a fight," warns Blaha. He instead advises monitoring the incident from a distance and in time discreetly calling the 158 police hotline.