Anti-Roma protests in Waterford city have been slammed by Ireland’s Minister of State for Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.
More than 30 members of the local Roma community were targeted in the demo on Saturday night.
The Irish Independent reports that the protest rally at Manor Street in the city, attended by more than 200 people, turned nasty.
Three families had to be evacuated from a house after protesters kicked in a door and smashed all the downstairs windows.
The rally was organised on Facebook and targeted the local Roma community who are being blamed for a series of alleged crimes in the area.
A second anti-Roma demonstration took place on Monday evening.
Police confirmed “One male in his 40s was arrested for public order offences. He was later released without charge. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
A local source told the Irish Independent that there had been a lot of thefts and criminal activity in the Manor Street area of the city recently.
He said “There had been a lot of robberies in the area and the Roma community were being blamed for it.”
The Pavee Point organisation has strongly condemned the attack.
A spokesperson for the rights group said “The content on Facebook pages to date has shown huge misinformation and racism towards Roma and have included inflammatory, dehumanising and violent language.
“There is a clear link between online hate speech and hate crime and there is an urgent need to address the use of the internet to perpetuate anti-Roma hate speech and to organise violence.”
Local Sinn Fein Councillor John Hearne said: “It is everything you don’t want to see in the city. The whole thing was organised on Facebook.”
Waterford people protest local Roma Gypsy gang who have been assaulting + robbing locals, and grooming young girls. pic.twitter.com/Mgw8RsMqXD— Aspie Savant (@AspieSavant) October 26, 2014
The Facebook pages include one titled ‘Get Roma criminal gypsies out’.
Posts included: “Burn the cockroaches out” and “Throw them in the river” and called people “Roma c**ts”. This page was taken down on Monday and a new page was posted, titled ‘Make Waterford a safer place’.
It said: “ok lads this page is to be peaceful and not discriminate against anyone because if your found doing this you will be banned from the page as its not about who they are its about what there doing and what the gardai (police) are doing to stop there crimes we need to stand up and show them we will not back down and be victims for there crime while gardai are protecting them (sic)”.
Minister Ó Ríordán told reporters: “It is completely and utterly wrong to tarnish an entire community because of concerns about criminality by some.
“This sort of vigilantism has no place in Irish society. My fear is that genuine concerns about crime are being whipped up and manipulated by unsavoury elements. They are targeting a vulnerable group, a soft target.”
Roma community development worker Gaby Muntean said: “The community is very, very scared of what is happening.”
An anti-racism rally will take place in the city on Wednesday (Oct 29) evening at 5.30 pm in Railway Square.