Around at thousand people turned out in Čakovec to protest against what they say is a wave of crime and violence by some members of the Roma ethnic minority.
The organizers of the protest claim members of the Roma community are responsible for 70 percent of the crimes committed in Međimurje County and want the city to hire more police officers and social workers.
“If it wasn't for the violence, the crime, and all the rest we've been subjected to, it would be ok. It needs to stop and the people who doing these things must be punished," protester resident told HRT.
Some Roma also attended the protest, saying, they too wanted to feel safe and secure and urged their fellow residents not to blame an entire community for the actions of irresponsible individuals.
“I am pleased that you have not shown any intolerance or hatred toward the Roma minority, but you have pointed to individuals who are disturbing the peace in our Roma communities and in your communities, were you feel uneasy. You have my full support in this,” Željko Balog, a member of the Roma community told the crowd.
“Roma gangs have appeared in our communities, but this is not our failure, it is the failure of institutions,” Balog said.
Several business owners whose businesses are located near Roma villages said they were uninsurable because so many property damage claims had been submitted.
Tin Hrgović, a local student, who spread the word about the initiative on social media was asked whether the allegations levelled at the Roma were rooted in racism.
"Is it a human right to fire an illegal weapon or to disturb neighbors with loud music, to steal or insult. Is it a human right to snatch a necklace from someone’s neck, steal their purse or beat an old woman to death?" Hrgović said, placing the blame also on the welfare system, claiming monthly payments received by many Roma are being spent on alcohol and gambling.
“What can we expect when children grow up in this kind of environment and see their parents living that way?”