BULGARIA’S ANTI-GYPSY PROTESTS WERE A BUMMER ALL AROUND
The day after the death of Angel Petrov in Katunitsa, anti-Romani protestors in front of Parliament in Sofia, Bulgaria, wave the national flag in the face of riot cops. Photo courtesy of BTA.
On September 23, 19-year-old Angel Petrov was intentionally run over and killed by a minibus full of Romani while walking his dog in the village of Katunitsa, Bulgaria. Following the murder, which was subsequently linked to orders from notorious Romani crime boss Kiril Rashkov, racial tensions between ethnic Bulgarians and Romanis escalated and sparked anti-Gypsy demonstrations, with thousands of people across the country taking to the streets, shouting things like, “Gypsies into soap, Turks under the knife!”
Prior to the murder, Rashkov and his grandsons reportedly made death threats to the victim’s family over an ongoing blood feud. Shortly after this news broke, a local crowd, backed by hooligans from Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, stormed three of the five houses owned by Rashkov and set them ablaze with Molotov cocktails. While most protesters distanced themselves from far-right extremists, nationalists seized the moment for some prime fearmongering.
The police managed to prevent further escalation, but a few nasty incidents still occurred, such as the beating of a pregnant Romani hooker by a gang of skinheads, riots in the city of Varna, and the vandalizing of shops in Plovdiv. In Sofia, protesters hurled rubble at the police. In the ensuing chaos, one of the protesters was hospitalized when a rock collided with his head, and more than 200 people were arrested around the country. The following day, vigilantes and the police publicized the Facebook accounts of those organizing the protest, and pages with names like “End Gypsy Terror! Help Bulgarians in Katunitsa!” were taken down. The most popular page had more than 70,000 followers—yet just under 5,000 protesters took to the streets.
The flagrant anti-Romani sentiment of the demonstrations deterred most sane people, and the popularity of the marches dropped sharply by October. Rashkov and two of his grandsons were arrested on charges of coercion (i.e., death threats), tax evasion, and possessing forged IDs. At present, it is thought that his clan is making plans to escape to neighboring Serbia