More than a hundred people gathered outside the Czech Republic’s embassy in Bucharest Tuesday to protest the death of a Roma man following an incident with Czech police earlier this month.
Video footage of the detention of the Roma man, in the northern Czech city of Teplice on June 19, shows a policeman kneeling on his neck for several minutes. The Roma man later died in an ambulance.
The incident sparked widespread condemnation about racism and discrimination allegedly faced by the Roma, whose population in Europe numbers around 10-12 million.
At Tuesday’s event in Romania’s capital — which was attended by dozens of Roma — some wore t-shirts brandished with the text: “Racism kills.” One of the protesters’ demands was an independent investigation into the man's death.
“A man of ours … was brutally killed by the police. This is proof that brutality against Roma people exists,” Banu Ionut Alin, from the civic group Aresel, told The Associated Press.
Czech police have said that the man died from a drug overdose. Official investigations are ongoing.
“The reason we took to the streets today is that this institutionalized racism is more and more present. There is a rising trend of extremist attitudes against Roma communities,” Alin said. “We are many, we have power, and we will oppose everything we can to respond to this institutional racism."
The European Commission has said that many Roma in the European Union are “victims of prejudice and social exclusion,” despite a discrimination ban across EU countries.
Since the Roma man’s death, protests and vigils have been held in various countries, including the United Kingdom, while many have drawn parallels to the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in the United States last year, which sparked huge protests.
The Council of Europe and Amnesty International have both called for an independent investigation into the Roma man's death.