Hate violence I
In the dialogue, our protagonists will face an unpleasant event that greatly shocks them: Tim will be the victim of a hate assault. He is shocked, angry at the whole world, and looking for people to blame. Because of this negative experience, he suspects and is able to accuse even those who may not have committed the attack.
This situation is rather complicated and involves many problems. In this text we will focus on the issue of hate violence, its victims and offenders.
Hate violence - means violence against a person, a group of persons or their property, where the sole motive for this behaviour is this person’s or group’s affiliation with a different social group defined by a specific feature.
Social group - a group with a common characteristic feature. This feature could refer to complexion, ethnicity or nationality, religion, religious affiliation or atheism, sexual orientation or identity, age, health and affiliation with a subculture.
Hate crime - crime committed with the main motive of prejudice against any of the above-defined groups of persons. If the motive is established in court, the length of the final sentence is increased.
Victim of hate crime - person attacked because of his/her unmistakable personal characteristics (complexion, nationality, religion, sexual orientation/identity, affiliation with a subculture). A victim of a hate crime can be a member of minority as well as majority population, even though most of them come from minorities. In most cases, the victims of hate crimes are unknown to the attackers. They are a symbol for them, representatives of a social group.
State crime policy - targeted activities of specialized bodies, aimed at fighting illegal acts and punishing offenders.
Punishment - imposed on the culprit of a crime in accordance with the Criminal Code, which specifies the length of the punishment for each type of crime; the specific sentence is then decided by court (e.g. for crimes a sentence of three to five years is possible, but also forfeiture etc.). In principle, a punishment has three functions: deterrent, i.e. to deter other potential offenders from an intention to commit such a crime; isolation, i.e. to separate the culprit from the society, preventing him/her from imposing evil for some tome; and re-educational, i.e. to influence the culprit so that he/she leads a normal life after release from prison, without committing any other crimes.
The essence of hate violence is the offender’s irrational hate against a group of persons which motivates him to attack a specific person. In most cases, the attack is depersonalized, the victim is assaulted because of what or whom he symbolizes in the offender’s eyes – a specific national, ethnic or religious group or a group defined by sexual orientation, age, health, subculture or any other social status.
A hate incident brings harm on three levels.
First of all, it harms the victim as such, and in a very hurting manner – due to unmistakable personal characteristics. The attacked person cannot stop being himself, cannot change his complexion, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. That is why the consequences of a hate assault are usually very significant. In addition to ordinary reactions, such as nausea, insomnia, fear, self-accusation, aggressiveness, and poor relationships with the social group, the victims of hate crimes can also typically suffer from loss or suppression of identity, resulting ultimately in self-hatred.
In the second place, a hate incident injures the social group represented by the assaulted individual. Fear of repeated attacks against any member spreads throughout the group, while a feeling of threat to the community as a whole develops. In some cases a hate incident can result in a chain of interethnic (or intergroup) violence, progressing to genocide, e.g. the war in the former Yugoslavia.
The third effect of a hate incident is its impact on social compromise and smooth cohabitation within a certain community – a village, city or state. A hate assault can potentially disrupt these permanently or for a long time. If hate violence is not adequately investigated and condemned, and if the society and its key representatives do not condemn the incident thoroughly or adequately express solidarity with the victim, the inner tension within the social group, its aversion to the majority society and even its tendency to reciprocating violence could grow stronger.
Hate violence has many forms – graffiti, offensive signs, inappropriate portrayal of a specific group of people, verbal attacks, publication and dissemination of publications, intimidation, threats and blackmail, damage to property(especially religious sites), physical assault, arson and terrorist attacks, genocide. Not every form of hate violence can be prosecuted.
If a hate incident is sufficiently intense and meets the definition of a crime, we talk about hate crime (see the accompanying text on the dialogue Have They Caught Them Yet?). Typically, hate crime has high latency, up to 90%. This means that only one in ten offences is reported to the police, i.e. is investigated as a hate crime by the police. Rape has a similar latency, for example. The low number of reported hate assaults is caused by numerous factors. First of all, this involves the victim’s fear of the offender’s revenge, lack of knowledge of rights, lack of faith in the judiciary as a whole, and prior negative experience with law enforcement authorities, but also the fact that some hate crimes are not investigated as hate crimes.
In the Czech Republic, Romanies are typical victims of hate crimes. Officially, 39 attacks out of a total of 108 were committed in the first half of 2010. These attacks are usually violent. Statistically, every person of Romani origin living in the Czech Republic is 48 times more likely to become a victim of hate violence their white neighbours.
Another group exposed to hate violence includes foreigners with other that white complexion. The attention of assailants has recently shifted towards the Vietnamese once again. In 2009 and 2010, the SAPA marketplace in Prague became an excuse for attacks, so far verbal, against the Vietnamese community; its sellers were blamed for problematic and alleged criminal conduct not only by the extreme right, but also by representatives of local government. The police did not confirm an increase in the crime rate in this area.
Incidents motivated by anti-Semitism and islamophobia are less frequent statistically, especially in the form of attacks against religious property (synagogues, mosques) and sacred sites (vandalism of Jewish cemeteries). Anti-Semitism can have the form of traditional racial and religious anti-Semitism, but after World War II also support for Shoah denial; to an increasing degree, however, it is associated with criticism against the State of Israel. However permissible this criticism can be, it should not result in generalizations, defamation of Jews or instigation of hate against the whole nation. Anti-Semitism in the Czech Republic is not, unlike in Western Europe, associated with Islamists. Islamophobia assumes particularly the form of attacks against mosques, including protests against the construction of new mosques. The media picture of the Muslim community has been principally influenced by the events of September 11, 2001 and by security developments in the Middle East.
Attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities are rather frequent in the Czech Republic. According to the latest academic survey by Olga Pechová called “Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation,” 35% of all LGBT people have encountered a form of harassment over the last five years. 14% of all gays have been physically assaulted and only one has decided to report this assault to the police. The police do not collect official data on homophobia-motivated crimes because they do not consider it necessary. The valid Penal Code does not specifically protect people attacked on the grounds of homophobia (unlike persons assaulted for reasons of complexion, ethnicity or nationality or affiliation with a specific class).
Another group vulnerable to hate violence is homeless people. They become the victims of different forms of violence quite often; non-government organizations claim that up to 40% of all homeless people have experienced physical violence (not necessarily hate violence). The increased vulnerability of homeless people is underpinned by the fact that this group of people is not respected or tolerated in the society because of their lifestyle. In the last two years, there have been an increasing number of attacks against the homeless; at least 3 homeless persons have been burnt or beaten to death.
Youth subcultures featuring a different appearance, music and culture and the values they prefer constitute a group highly vulnerable to hate violence. Almost always these persons become the victims of crimes committed by the extreme right (even though hate violence is not only the domain of the extreme right; see below). Violence against youth subcultures is almost exclusively latent, as those attacked do not report to the police. Conflicts between people from the extreme right and their political anti-racist opponents are usually very brutal. In January 2009, an anti-racist skinhead was killed in a fight by a member of the extreme right.
Compared to the general conviction, largely supported by the media, members or supporters of the extreme right are not the sole or prevalent offenders committing hate crimes. Based on the latest survey conducted by the Institute of Criminology and Social Prevention, hate violence (the survey focused specifically on interethnic violence) is committed by supporters of the extreme right (called “skinhead supporters” in the survey) only in less than 20% of all cases. Other attacks are attributable to members of another minority (also 20%) and members of the regular population. The conviction that hate violence is a domain of so-called extremists diverts the attention of law enforcement authorities and the public from the actual essence of the hate incidents – the fact that they are committed due to prejudice. Prejudice is rather frequent throughout the whole population – to a large extent, the offenders are people without any extreme attitudes at first sight (they do not visit extreme right demonstrations, do not publicly proclaim any racist slogans, do not wear clothes or symbols typical for a hate group). In many cases, the police is not able/willing to identity a hate crime committed by someone from the regular population.
The mixing of terms is also to some degree caused by a fast adoption of inappropriate terminology at the level of state administration (Ministry of the Interior, police, Ministry of Education), where the term “extremist violence” has been widely used exclusively for describing hate incidents since the end of 1990s. The main repressive and preventive efforts are therefore aimed only against 20% of the population. The society is thus convinced that only an extremist can be a racist, while demonstrably up to three-fourths of the whole population have more or less intensive attitudes that could be termed as racist or motivated by other forms of hate.
In practice, it is possible to define three basic types of hate violence offenders – offenders on a mission, reactive offenders and amusement offenders.
Offenders on a mission, or offenders who commit crime as a mission, are convinced that they attack in the spirit of a higher good, or to the benefit of the whole well-ordered society. Typical offenders on a mission are the supporters of extreme right groups and hate groups. An offender on a mission expects appraisal and confirmation of his contribution among others, and often gets it from the extreme right; quite often, however, these offenders also have their crime confirmed by a positive response from the general public (e.g. attacks by the extreme right in Janov). If an offender on a mission is caught, he usually does not cooperate with investigators, and in many cases tries to act as a hero and saviour of the majority society during criminal investigation and prosecution. Typical offenders on a mission were the neo-Nazis charged with a attempted murder by arson aimed against a Romani family in Vítkov, North Moravia. During the proecution, at least two of them were very determined, without any sign of remorse and virtually any fear of a high punishment. Offenders on a mission also often become iconic figures for the neo-Nazi movement, which hails them, refers to them and their attacks for a long time, and supports the condemned attackers in prison. In the Czech Republic, there is a network organized by the neo-Nazis, to support convicts, whom the neo-Nazis call “prisoners-of-war” (POWs) of the current political system.
The second type of offender is a reactive one. He usually attacks in a more or less direct relationship to an immediate situation in the community. He understands his own attack as a reaction against a prior action of the victim’s community. Quite often, however, an offender commits a crime that he understands as a reaction to a possible danger while no specific prior act occurred. In both cases, these offenders try to “defend” their territory against a danger which, in their eyes, is represented by the members of different communities.
The last type of racial violence isviolence “for amusement”. This includes attacks by individuals who want to draw attention to themselves, without being part of the network of extremist groups; they crave for the interest of newspapers and simply want to shock. Another feature of this type of racial violence is that the offender often acts spontaneously, using opportunities, without preparing or planning the attack in advance. The offender often does not even have an extreme racial attitude and acts impulsively, based on established opinions, for example that Romanies are a problematic group in the population (in the Czech Republic; in the rest of Europe, the same is often applied to immigrants). Obviously, for this type of violence, just like the previous type, it depends on the specific circumstances whether prosecution is actually launched against a crime on the basis of it having a racial origin. A latent danger of this type is that people have a tendency to play down such attacks, condone them as “roguery”, or even rationalize them.
Help for the victims of hate violence is not sufficient in the Czech Republic. As a matter of fact, the first highly specialized organization providing legal and psychological support to victims – In IUSTITIA – was established only as late as 2009. The state does not provide any targeted help to the victims of hate violence, not in the form of supporting programmes or assistance, nor even indirectly in the form of subsidies to non-profit organizations or educational programmes focused on law enforcement authorities to optimize their approach to the victims of hate crimes. Hate crime is still seen through the prism of extremism, so maximum attention is paid to revealing neo-Nazi structures. Under the Czech approach to the penal law, victims are still seen as evidence, not as harmed people with specific rights and needs. Rather than being treated as a human being, the victim of this type of crime is used as a tool for the state’s repressive policy against the offender.
Hate violence in song lyrics
Song lyrics are often used to disseminate hate. In the context of the neo-Nazi movement, we talk about so-called white power music, whose lyrics typically contain calls for violence against ethnic and national minorities, immigrants and homosexuals. In the Czech Republic the major role of the racist skinhead bank Orlík, especially its song Bílá liga (White League), is often mentioned. However, it has to be noted that the lyrics of bands emerging after Orlík are often much more brutal, instructive and clearer.
Lyrics from the music bank Agrese 95 – Chcípni (Die)
Pack your shit and go, even with your bastards, otherwise you’ll die in pain, you fuck,
Pack your shit and go, even with your bastards, otherwise you’ll die in pain, you fuck,
Lyrics spreading hate and prejudice are also found among mainstream musicians and musicians without any connections to the neo-Nazis. In spring 2009, Aleš Brichta released an album with a song that evokes a grudge against Romanies. In addition, the cover showed a running figure of a Romani with a handbag in one hand and a car radio in the other. In his defence, Brichta said that he wanted to send rodent control against politicians and the figure on the cover of the album was a traditional figure from Arab fairy tales. No criminal prosecution has been ever launched against the singer.
Politicians make fools of us all
The last example of a hate-motivated verbal expression shows the lyrics of a hip-hop trio Řezník Pitva Hrobka.
We’ve come with a solution with Řezník and Pitva, to have the scaffolds fall on beggars at Karlák,
Hate violence in the form of physical assault
In April 2010, there was a hate incident in a small village in South Bohemia. A group of Romani children were playing on the dike of a pond; a three-year-old child threw a stone in the pond and the spraying water hit a middle-aged man from the majority society. He identified a thirteen-year-old girl as being the person responsible for the group of children, and assaulted her; he threw her in the pond and started drowning her. By a lucky chance, the girl managed to get free because the assailant was attacked by his own dog. The attacker called the group of children “black swines". The police and the public prosecutor did not view the attack as racial; they even consider it a mere offense. The prosecution is currently being examined by the regional prosecutor’s office. It is a question whether the prosecution was influenced by the fact that man has a stable and influential position in the community, while the children come from an asylum home. The incident has had a huge impact on the girl. She has lost all confidence in her social surroundings, her school grades have worsened and she has had some health problems.
Hate violence in the form of organized attack
So far the last organized attack motivated by hate was an attempted pogrom of the Romani population of the Janov estate in Litvínov. In September 2008, a group of ten supporters of the extreme right political party Workers’ Party (DS) organized a patrol whose official goal was to police the cohabitation between Romanies and Czechs on the estate. Unofficially, they wanted to provoke a conflict, which they succeeded in doing. A group of Romanies verbally and racially attacked Lucie Šlégrová – a leading member of DS in Litvínov, while the police were looked on indifferently. The conflict became a pretext for organizing two consecutive joint demonstrations of DS and unregistered neo-Nazi movements – National Resistance and Autonomous Nationalists. Both demonstrations were accompanied by violence. The neo-Nazis tried to get to the Romani residents of Janov and were supported by some of the majority population of Litvínov, who attacked the Romanies verbally and facilitated the movement of the neo-Nazis within the city, with the goal of circumventing the police units protecting the estate. Dozens of people were hurt during the demonstrations – journalists, police and civilians. The repeated violent conflicts resulted in two Romanies being convicted for verbal attacks against Lucie Šlégrová. No neo-Nazi nor any member of the majority population of Litvínov was charged with verbal instigation of violence. No-one was punished for physically assaulting the police. Only two attackers who assaulted the civil activist Ondřej Cakl are prosecuted. He had to identify them himself and the police insisted for half a year that it did not have sufficient evidence to launch criminal proceedings.
Last update: 15 November 2010
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Council of Europe (1996). Tackling racist and xenophobic violence in Europe, Review and practical guidance, Community relations. Strasbourgh: Council of Europe Publishing.
Council of Europe (1997). Tackling racist and xenophobic violence in Europe: case studies, Community relations. Strasbourgh: Council of Europe Publishing.
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Act No. 95/1974 Coll.).
General Convention on the Protection of National Minorities (Act No. 96/1998 Coll.)
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