Clashes between police officers and Romani people broke out yesterday morning in the Bulgarian town of Stara Zagora. Romani people formed human chains in an effort to prevent authorities from demolishing their homes.
News server Novinite.com reports that three police officers were lightly injured and two Romani people were arrested. The demolition of a total of 55 illegally built homes in the Lozenec quarter began on Monday 21 July at 7:30 AM on the basis of a decision by Mayor Zhivko Todorov.
Town representatives said the homeowners had been advised of the demolition within the legally-established timeframe, but the occupants disagree with the destruction of their homes and decided to defend them. Romani locals erected barricades and formed a human chain, chanting “Mafia, mafia”, some even threatened to commit suicide.
Riot police intervened against them. According to the Bulgarian media, some Romani people threw rocks and rooftiles at the officers.
Three officers were lightly injured and received medical treatment at the scene. Two protesters were arrested and authorities are pressing charges against them.
The demolition of the houses was originally to have taken place in May, but according to local authorities, it had to be thoroughly prepared so that order and security could be ensured during the demolition. News server Novinite.com reports there were almost 1 000 officers at the scene and in the area around the Romani houses, as well as several ambulances and fire trucks.
The owners of the demolished homes said they will sue over the incident. They intend to turn to the European Court of Human Rights, which issued a judgment in April 2012 instructing the authorities that they could not proceed in such a violent way.
Mayor Todorov said there was no way to legalize the 55 houses because they were built on land that belongs to Borova Gora Park. A total of 30 homes were demolished on Monday, with the demolition continuing today.
NGOs such as the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee are protesting the procedure undertaken by the Stara Zagora town hall. The organizations say the state is “practicing institutional racist violence” in this case.
“The creation of homeless people does not address social problems, it creates them. The irresponsible behavior of the state will lead to more judgments against Bulgaria and in the long term will have serious consequences for all of society,” the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said in a press release.
Euroroma, a Romani political party, called on the mayor to immediately halt the demolitions. Party supporters said they would blockade the country’s main highways if the demolitions continued.