A Roma man who died after being arrested by the police in the Czech Republic is being called the “Czech George Floyd” after video footage emerged of a police officer kneeling on his neck.
The officer knelt on the man’s neck for several minutes while another held his feet during the arrest in the Czech town of Teplice.
The man later died in an ambulance that was called to the scene.
People were quick to draw comparisons to the case of George Floyd, a black man murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis last year.
Michal Miko, head of the Romanonet, an organisation promoting the integration of the Czech Republic’s Roma population, described the arrest as “the height of brutality”.
Andrew Stroehlein, European media director, from Human Rights Watch said there were “obvious parallels to the killing of George Floyd” and called for a “full, independent investigation”.
The Czech police, however, have claimed the man died from the effects of drugs they allege he had taken.
Veronika Hysplerova, a spokeswoman for the regional police, said officers had been called following reports of a scuffle between men described as drug addicts.
Police claim that the man died as a result of drugs he had taken
Credit: ROMEA TV
One of the men fled but the other was caught and restrained, she told Blesk.cz, the website of one of the Czech Republic’s biggest newspapers.
She added that he was under the influence of drugs, and “died in that state”.
This explanation has failed to quell anger in the Roma population. Emil Vorac, the director of one Roma organisation, has called for protests, saying that even a person on drugs should not be subjected to such a “disproportionate use of force”.
Adding an emotional weight to comparisons to Mr Floyd is that the Czech Republic’s Roma population has faced decades of discrimination and racism. In the 1970s and 80s, hundreds of Czechoslovak Roma women were involuntarily sterilised in a practice that continued following the split of the country in 1993.