Romani mother and children file criminal complaint over violent, racist attack in a playground in Bacău, Romania
08 February 2024
By Judit Ignácz
Every mother's nightmare turned into reality on the 18th of September 2022, when two Romani children, aged 5 and 8, were subjected to hate-motivated, racist verbal and physical attack by non-Romani parents at a playground in Bacău, Romania, leaving both children traumatized and their mother seeking justice.
The incident happened in a paid playground in the Arena Shopping Mall in Bacău, where a Romani mother took her two children to play while she was away shopping. However, the play time took a distressing turn when a non-Romani child falsely accused one of the Romani siblings of hitting him, triggering a chain of racist violence. The mother of the non-Romani child confronted the Romani siblings, slapping the older boy while hurling derogatory racial slurs such as "Dirty Gypsy" and "Crow" (a racist slur for Romani people and other ethnicities in Romania). Her husband joined her, threatened the Romani siblings, and continued the racist name-calling.
The supervisor of the playground also intervened, condemning the mother's racist actions and warning her against such behaviour. Angered by this, the husband, who was an off-duty police officer, verbally assaulted and threatened the supervisor and demanded his money back from her. While the playground manager called security, several other mothers present told her that it was pointless because the husband was a police officer.
When the Romani siblings' mother returned to the playground, she saw her children crying and learned about the unfair treatment they had faced, which other mothers who were present also confirmed. She tried to talk to the non-Romani parents to resolve the issue but was unsuccessful. Instead, the non-Romani couple violently attacked her. The husband grabbed her throat and pushed her, shouting, "Gypsy, go away, you can't do anything to us."
After the incident, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Romanian NGO ROMAJUST offered the family legal assistance. The mother took immediate action by filing a complaint with the police and sharing the incident's footage with a national television station, bringing the case to the public's attention. Following the public exposure of the incident, the County Police Inspectorate initiated an investigation, conducting interviews with the playground employees.
"The situation is even more serious because it involves an innocent child who tried to defend his brother. It is unacceptable for a child to be physically assaulted on a playground, and we hope that the authorities will take the necessary measures to ensure justice is served," - said Eugen Ghiță, the President of the Romani Lawyers Association ROMAJUST.
This incident serves as a sobering reminder of how discrimination and hate-motivated crimes manifest in the daily lives of Romani families. Society as a whole must stand against hate speech and hate-motivated, racist violence, ensuring the safety and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their ethnicity. The pursuit of justice, in this case, is not only about holding the perpetrators accountable but also about sending a powerful message that hate has no place in a just and inclusive society.
This complex case continues evolving as new criminal complaints are filed to the Public Prosecutor's Office of the Bacău Court and hearings unfold. This incident is not an isolated occurrence but rather part of a broader pattern of discrimination and hate-motivated crimes against the Romani community going unchallenged in Romania. The ERRC and ROMAJUST remain committed to providing legal defence and actively supporting individuals, communities, and organisations in their fight against discrimination and promoting equality and justice for the Romani community.
The ERRC’s COORDE (Challenging online and offline Roma Discrimination in Europe) Project, funded by the European Commission through the "Citizens, Equality, Rights, and Values" Program (CERV-2021-EQUAL), plays a crucial role in addressing discrimination and hate speech against Roma in both online and offline environments. The European Roma Rights Centre ROMAJUST, the Romani Lawyers Association, the Forum for Human Rights (Slovakia), and the Equal Opportunities Initiative Association (Bulgaria) are actively involved in this project to combat discrimination and promote equality and justice for the Romani community.
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are, however, those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible.