Protesters Attempt Roma Pogroms in Major Bulgarian Cities

Crime | September 26, 2011, Monday // 22:38
Bulgaria: Protesters Attempt Roma Pogroms in Major Bulgarian Cities Pictured: riot police are repulsing violent protesters in downtown Sofia Monday night. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Riot police and gendarmerie units have managed to stave off attempts by violent protesters to storm Roma-populated quarters in Bulgaria's Varna, Pleven, and Pazardzhik, which come on top of the clashes in Sofia and Plovdiv.

A group of 150 youngsters tried to attack the Roma-populated quarter in the northern city of Pleven but were fended off by the local police which had to mobilize its entire staff. Before that, however, the protesters violated a local club of the ethnic Turkish party DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms), Darik Radio reported.

A likely pogrom on the Roma-populated quarter Maxuda was also prevented by the police and gendarmerie in Bulgaria's Varna, after a rally of 1 000 participants escalated Monday night.

The rally notably featured the fan clubs of local football teams Spartak Varna and Cherno More as well as about 100 bikers.

Not unlike the developments in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, and Pleven, in the southern city of Pazardzhik, the police cordoned off the Roma quarter Iztok, and prevented large groups of people from trying to enter it.

Tensions across major Bulgarian cities grew Monday night as a result of protest rallies across the country, after on Sunday Plovdiv nearly became the center of ethnic clashes between ethnic Bulgarians and ethnic Roma over the weekend, following the murder in the nearby village of Katunitsa of 19-year-old Angel Petrov by associates of notorious Roma boss Kiril Rashkov, aka Tsar Kiro, committed Friday night.

The murder of Angel Petrov, who was deliberately run over by a mini-bus, according to witnesses, led to massive protests of the ethnic Bulgarians in the village of Katunitsa against Rashkov's Roma clan on Saturday, culminating Saturday night into the burning of Rashkov's properties by football hooligans from Plovdiv.

The tensions grew in Plovdiv on Sunday, the day of Petrov's funeral, when the police barely prevented clashes between a protest rally and local Roma in Roma-populated quarters Stolipinovo, Sheker Mahala, and Adzhisan Mahala.

Sunday night's rallies in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Pleven, and Pazardzhik led to clashes between police and violent protesters, with hundreds being arrested.

In addition to demanding justice for the murder of 19-year-old Angel Petrov, the agenda of the protesters appears to be focusing on the "Roma issue" - or what they describe as a privileged situation of a large part of the Roma minority dealing with various crimes while enjoying a virtual immunity from prosecution and exemption from taxes. Regardless of the voicing of these grievances by protesters, suspicions remain that far-right groups and football hooligans might be involved in the rallies.

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Tags: Plovdiv, sofia, clashes, ethnic clashes, ethnic violence, Roma, ethnic Turkish, ethnic Turks, Stolipinovo, Adzhasan Mahala, protesters, protest rallies, protest rally, Tsar Kiro, Kiril Rashkov, riot police, gendarmerie, Katunitsa, Angel Petrov, police, gendarmerie, extremists, far right, football hooligans, arrested, detained, detainees, Varna, Pazardzhik, Pleven, Maxuda quarter
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