Friday, August 17, 2007
Bulgarian police: Our safety first!
The above image is from yesterday Netinfo report about events that took place several kilometers from where I live (http://netinfo.bg/?tid=40&oid=1085596). Here is a quote from the text:
"On Tuesday night, there were Roma riots in the (Sofia) district of Krasna Polyana. Several cars were destroyed. Nobody was injured. Police presence was reinforced. The day before, four men were hurt after being beaten in a cafe... They were attacked by about 150 Roma who mistook them for skinheads. Property at the cafe was also damaged."
For those who don't know, "Roma" is the politically correct term for Gypsy.
Now, the million dollar question: If mobs of Gypsies armed with rods, spades and knives goes on a rampage through the city, damaging property and beating innocent people, who is to blame?
The answer of Volen Siderov's fans: The nasty Gypsies, with whom one should deal as Hitler did.
The answer of some politically correct people living at a safe distance from the Gypsies: The racist Bulgarian majority which, by discrimination and abuse, has driven the poor Gypsies to such acts of despair.
The answer obvious to anyone of the meanest understanding: The police, whose job is to deal exactly with behaviours like these.
However, our police have a different idea about their job. I am translating a little more from the same Netinfo report:
"Kamen Penkov, Deputy Minister of the Internal Affairs, spoke for the Darik Radio. In response to critics saying that policemen were standing by, idly looking at the armed men, he said that the police acted adequately in the very unruly night of Tuesday. "In this situation, against this group of people who cannot be compared to environmental activists, protesting Suhodol residents or retired citizens, I think that the tactic chosen by us was absolutely right," Penkov said."
The environmental activists Penkov was referring to are obviously the protesters campaigning to save Strandja (see my July 9 post). Suhodol is a Sofia suburb where the garbage of the entire city is stockpiled; the garbage was to be dumped there for a fixed period of time but the city authorities continued transporting it to Suhodol after the deadline and this triggered protests by residents. I am not sure which retired people Penkov meant, but police have recently mounted a campaign against old women who try to make ends meet by "unauthorized" sale of flowers and berries in the streets (Simion Pateev eye-witnessed one case and described it at http://nabludatel.blogspot.com/2007/08/blog-post_08.html, in Bulgarian).
In all these cases, the police acted brutally against people unwilling and often unable to defend themselves by force. I haven't blogged about this, as I didn't initially intend to blog about this week's riots. I am not going to let either the Gypsy problems or our rogue police dominate my blog. But Penkov's statement was too juicy to omit. Let me translate its essence to plain understandable language.
"We, the police, are prepared and willing to use force against offenders such as peaceful protesters and old women selling flowers. Don't demand us to confront numerous armed and aggressive men. We were quite right not to intervene in this situation, because it was unsafe."
This is indeed exactly the attitude and mode of action of Bulgarian police, as I have observed it for years. However, it was surprising for me that Penkov said it in plain text.