Jakub Polák (anarchist)

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Jakub Polák (September 1, 1952 – September 25, 2012) was a Czech anarchist[1] and anti-racism activist.[2] Polák was involved particularly in Roma rights and squatters' rights issues.[3]

Polák was born in Karlovy Vary and grew up in Marxist-Leninist Czechoslovakia.[3] He became a dissident in his teens, when he became involved in the Prague Spring of 1968, and as a consequence he was not permitted to attend university.[2] He took part in various dissident and underground movement activities.[3] He was a co-founder of the 1989 strike committee that led to the Velvet Revolution.[2] He was also involved with the Czech branch of the Movement for Civil Society.[4]

After the fall of the Eastern Bloc, Polák openly founded numerous anarchist organizations and publications.[2] He joined the "Levá alternativa" ("LA"; transl. "Left Alternative"), eventually becoming a member of its anarchist wing.[2] The group split, with the anarchist LA becoming the Československé anarchistické sdružení (ČAS; transl. Czechoslovak Anarchist Association).[2] In 1991, Polák and others from ČAS founded the A-Kontra magazine, which became the central organ of the Czech anarchist movement in the 1990s and early 2000s.[2] Polák remained involved with A-Kontra until his death, working as editor-in-chief with the magazine.[3][4]

Polák was involved in numerous anti-racist organizations and activities. He worked as "attorney-in-fact" with numerous victims of racist and neo-Nazi attacks, including in the case of Tibor Danihel, a victim of a 1993 attack by racist skinheads in Písek, South Bohemia,[3] which he eventually brought to the Czech Supreme Court.[2] Polák was also instrumental in the cases of the 1994 murder of Zdeněk Čepela in Tanvald; the 1998 murder of Milan Lacek in Orlová; a 1998 racist skinhead campaign in České Budějovice; the 2001 murder of Ota Absolon in Svitavy; and a 2010 attack by neo-Nazis in Benešov.[2] He also served as an editor of various Romani publications, including the Romano gendalos (transl. "Romani Mirror") between 1993 and 1995, and with a news server Romea.cz until the end of his life.[2] Polák was himself attacked in August, 1999, in a restaurant in Karvina, where he was meeting government minister Jana Chalupova regarding a 1998 skinhead murder of a Romani.[5]

Polák was active in housing and squatters rights movements throughout his life.[2] In 1990, he co-founded a squat on Pplk. Sochora street in Prague.[2] He remained active in squatters' rights movements throughout the rest of his life. Even in the last months of his life, while ill with cancer, Polák worked with Roma people in a case[3] involving their eviction and relocation from their home in Přednádraží, a neighborhood (sometimes described as a ghetto or shantytown) in Ostrava-Privoz.[6]

Jakub Polák died on Tuesday, September 25, 2012, from cancer.[2]

Awards[edit]

  • 2000 – František Kriegel Award from the Charter 77 Foundation (Nadace Charty 77), for anti-racist work

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Nadace M. J. Stránského, The New Presence (1998).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Czech Press Agency, Gwendolyn Albert (transl.), "Czech anarchist, advocate of Romani people's rights, has passed away", Romea.cz, Sept. 26, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Czech News Agency, "Czech Anarchist Movement Doyen Polak Dies", Sept. 27, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Stephen Roth Institute, Antisemitism Worldwide 2000/1, University of Nebraska Press, 2002, p.186, citing Prague Post, April 25-May 1, 2001.
  5. ^ U.S. Dept. of State, "1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Czech Republic" (Feb. 25, 2000).
  6. ^ Czech News Agency, "Roma refuse to leave their Ostrava homes", Aug. 6, 2012.