Roma: Stop the violence protests in 10 EU Countries


On Saturday, 28th July 2018, the streets of Bucharest were filled with Roma people- activists, academics and familes- all heading towards the Romanian Parliament and then to the Italian and the Ukrainian embassies protesting against the growing violence towards Roma across Europe. More than 900 people gathered together to show that they are not indifferent to violence, discriminatory practices and policies that Roma have been experiencing in Europe. The demonstrations also mark the Roma Holocaust Memorial day on 2nd August.

The protests reflect an emerging discontent among civil society in relation to recent cases of far-right violence against Roma in Ukraine that have led to the murder of a young Roma person and the injury of 4 others who tried to save their lives. The deadly outcome is part of radical groups’ numerous attacks on Roma encampments in the country. Although investigations were launched, human rights organisations and Roma advocates reveal that no charges have been initiated against the perpetrators.

The Europe- wide Roma protests and demonstrations against criminal violence go hand in hand with the criticism towards the newly-proposed laws by the interior Minister Mateo Salvini that target Roma in Italy. The leader of the anti-immigration League Party suggested establishing a register on Roma people in Italy which would make it easy to start deportation of those without papers.

Additionally, the proposed bills will facilitate the process of removing Roma children from their families in cases of school non-attendance and will help the government to identify Roma camps for demolition. Although the introduction of bills has received political condemnation by political opponents, it seems that the radical populism in Italy reaches the point of becoming public policies. In early July this year, Italy’s Lombardi Region has become the first to adopt a legislation that allows the census to be conducted on Romani and Sinti people residing in the region. With a number of Roma people in Italy reaching 180,000 and 43% of them being Italian citizens, Salvini’s political campaign threatens the civil rights and dignity of Roma in the country.

The attempts for the introduction of anti- Roma policies were largely criticized by protesters in front of the Italian embassy in Bucharest who red manifestos, reminding the Italian authorities that they will NEVER AGAIN allow the introduction of racial policies targeting the Roma, similar to those introduced by the fascist leader Benito Mussolini in early 1920’s. Protest and demonstrations are expected to be held in 9 other states among which are the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain. The European Roma marching is expected to crowd in the streets of European capitals and to give a “special” attention to Ukrainian and Italian embassies there.

Several of the activities will also commemorate the atrocities committed during the Second World War where on 2nd August people all over Europe commemorate the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, including an annual gathering in the UK.

The demonstrations have been closely coordinated between organizers where ideas, messages, and good practices are shared within states. And while there is no doubt that the Roma protests will attract the attention of local and international media, activists from Bulgaria have also established a Facebook event, informational video and profile frame as tools for expressing solidarity, raise awareness and attract like-minded persons to join the upcoming demonstrations and commemoration of the Roma Holocaust in the capital city Sofia on 2nd August.

The European -wide rallies and protests against anti -Gypsyism remind us that power is never given! It is a sign of increasing hope and determination for social justice that has always been cornerstone values of each oppressed societies. Mostly, Roma marches are an appeal for Europe and for the rest of the world, that equality and human rights need recognition and promotion more than ever!

Here in the UK, there will be Roma Holocaust Memorial event: The Roma Genocide commemoration will take place at 12 noon on 2nd August 2018 around the Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial. Protesting will be held against the recent murders in Ukraine, camp destruction in Italy and the rise of anti-Roma racism and violence across Europe.

Dancho Yakimov