#RomaAreEqual: A Man Brutally Beat A Roma Boy And Put The Video Online Where It Backfired

By Jud Nirenberg

On April 18th, a teenage boy I have never met, Mitko, stood up for me. Shortly after being beaten by a white supremacist, Mitko got to his feet and defended me some more.

Mitko is Romani, a member of Europe’s largest ethnic minority and, according to many polls, the minority against whom people hold the most prejudice.

He was on his way home in the small Bulgarian village of Ovchepoltsi when the much larger twenty-four year old Angel Kaleev approached him and asked him whether he thought that they were equals. Kaleev was video recording the encounter.

A nervous Mitko tried to smile and was clearly aware of the risk of assault: “Well, if you’re not going to hit me, I’ll say we’re equal.”

The attacker did hit him and forced him to the ground.

He cursed and berated the boy. “Am I a Gypsy?” he asked, repeatedly kicking Mitko and making him apologize for supposing that they were equal despite their ethnic difference.

Kaleev posted the video with his own racist commentary on social media.

Mitko was hurt but not convinced that Romani people are inferior to others. He made something of his own statement for social media.

He had a picture taken of himself holding a sign that reads #RomaAreEqual.

His defiance has provoked Roma across Europe and beyond to add their own #RomaAreEqual photos online.

It has also drawn out many racist social media posts by Bulgarians who find the slogan of equality offensive.

When this young man dared to say that Roma are equal to the face of a bigot with obvious violent intent, he was not only reaffirming his own dignity. He was defending my dignity, my son’s dignity, and that of all Romani people.

Knowing that he would have to get up the next day, go to his segregated school (in towns all over Bulgaria, Romani children are placed in segregated education) and then walk home on the same street where Kaleev stopped him before, Mitko chose to publicly show that this story is not over.

Advocacy organizations like the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center are now asking the Bulgarian government to offer plans to better respond to hate crimes.

The current political mood does not make equal rights a high priority.

If you see this, Mitko, you and Angel Kaleev are not equals. You are better.

Jud Nirenberg is the author of Johann Trollmann and Romani Resistance to the Nazis. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Romani Arts/ Twitter (Screengrab) 

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