Out in the World: Thousands of Slovakians demonstrate against hate following shooting outside LGBTQ bar

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Friday October 21, 2022
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Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová lays flowers outside of Tepláre? bar, an LGBTQ bar in central Bratislava, the country's capital, October 13 after a deadly shooting. Photo Courtesy Euronews
Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová lays flowers outside of Tepláre? bar, an LGBTQ bar in central Bratislava, the country's capital, October 13 after a deadly shooting. Photo Courtesy Euronews

Slovakia's president and prime minister were among the 20,000 people who marched through the capital, Bratislava, condemning the October 12 killing of two young gay men outside an LGBTQ bar.

"We will not be silenced," marchers chanted, reported MSN. Smaller gatherings mourning the slain gay men were held around the country, reported Balkan Insight.

The demonstrators honored the victims, blamed anti-LGBTQ politicians' hate-filled rhetoric, and called upon lawmakers to legally enshrine the human rights of LGBTQ people throughout Europe and internationally.

It was the second shooting outside of an LGBTQ bar in Europe this year. In June, a gunman opened fire killing two men in their 50s and 60s and injuring more than 20 people outside of London Club, a popular gay nightclub in Oslo, Norway's capital, hours before the city's Pride celebrations, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported.

On October 12 at 7 p.m. local time, Juraj Krajcik, 19, allegedly opened fire with a gun that was reportedly equipped with a laser sight outside Tepláreň bar in central Bratislava. Matúš Horváth, 23, and Juraj Vankulič, 26, were shot dead. A third victim, only identified by Reuters as Radoslava T., 28, was wounded and recovering at a hospital.

The gun was apparently registered to a relative of the alleged gunman, reported Reuters. Social media accounts allegedly belonging to Krajcik were filled with homophobic and antisemitic statements and a manifesto. After a nightlong search, police found Krajcik, the son of a prominent member of the far-right Vlast party, dead with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound near the headquarters of the Ministry of Education on the morning of October 13.

Slovakia's National Crime Agency classified the shootings as premeditated murder, motivated by hatred of a sexual minority, reported the BBC. Authorities are still investigating the killings and the motive but told reporters that they found "no indications the killer knew his victims," reported Reuters.

Police stated at an October 14 news conference that the investigation found Krajcik had visited the bar in mid-August. Tepláreň owner Roman Samotný, who had just opened the bar two hours before the attack, told the Slovakian Spectator that Krajcik waited outside the bar for at least half an hour before he started shooting.

"There could have been more people in the bar," Samotný said.

Special Prosecutor Daniel Lipsic told Reuters that authorities could also classify the crime "as an act of terrorism" based on Krajcik's reported manifesto that warned that he would carry out the attack.

"The suspicion is that the motive of this act was to destabilize society," Lipsic said at a televised briefing. "These points lead us to the possible consideration that we could classify this criminal offense as an act of terrorism."

President Zuzana Čaputová raised the rainbow flag, along with the Slovak and the European flags, over the Presidential Palace in memory of Horváth and Vankulič.

"Hate crimes are not an attack only on some community, a minority. Hate crimes are aimed at all of us, because they are aimed at the basic values of our society, toward humanity," Čaputová told the crowd October 14. She then marched with others to one of the Bratislava squares where she spoke out against the violence.

Čaputová openly supported the LGBTQ community during her presidential campaign in 2019. Members of the Slovak Catholic Church declared voting for her would be "sinful," reported Global Voices.

She was joined in marching by Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger, who condemned the killings, telling reporters at a press conference that "extremism is unacceptable."

Speaker of Parliament Boris Kollár, one of the three highest constitutional officials who is conservative and anti-LGBTQ, did not attend the march, reported Global Citizen.

The Roman Catholic Church is dominant in the country. More than half the 5.4 million population identify as Catholic in the conservative country, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1961 when the country was part of Czechoslovakia. Slovakia and the Czech Republic split in what was called the "Velvet Divorce" in 1993, three years after the fall of communism. The country upheld the law. Slovakia has since enacted some legal protections against discrimination, recognizes hate crimes against LGBTQ people, and allows gender recognition, but being LGBTQ remains taboo and discrimination is still a reality. Marriage equality has failed to pass in the legislature despite several attempts.

About 77% of same-sex couples are always or often afraid of holding hands in public, according to research from the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union. The agency found that one in five trans and intersex people in Slovakia said they were physically or sexually attacked in the five years leading up to the survey, the year of which was not available on the document.

Many lawmakers openly spew homophobic rhetoric. Before the 2020 parliamentary election, Heger pledged not to introduce the registered partnership for LGBTQ people. At the march, Heger apologized to the LGBTQ community for his past statements, telling the crowd that nobody should be in danger because of their "way of life," reported Global Citizen.

Čaputová asked Slovakia's LGBTQ community for forgiveness "for not being able to feel safe in Slovakia" and hugged Tepláreň owner Samotný, whose establishment is one of the few spaces LGBTQ people felt safe.

"I'm sorry that our society was not able to protect your loved ones," she told the crowd during her speech. "You belong here, you have a value for our society."

The crowd responded, chanting, "Thank you," reported The Associated Press.

Samotný said he plans to close Tepláreň, reported CNN Prima News. "We are facing a systematic effort to erase us from public space," he said during an interview.

Speaking with Balkan Insight, Samotný said, "We are silent when people are attacked at bus stops and when they are insulted on the bus. Now I am talking not only about LGBT+ people, but also about Roma, Jews, Ukrainians, women, and other minorities. We keep silent and let evil grow."

Martin Macko, head of the Inakos Initiative, which co-organized the march with Rainbow Pride Bratislava, added, "It's now up to all society to finally stop the trend of growing hatred towards LGBT+ people."

The BBC reported that European Parliament Vice President Michal Simecka, who was also at the event, said he wanted the European legislature to discuss the killings at a future session.

"To express our sympathy, but also to call on the Slovak authorities to take clear steps to put an end to the language of hatred towards LGBTI people," he said.

Got international LGBTQ news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp/Signal: 415-517-7239, or [email protected]

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