Roma rapper's debut video "Kneeling on the neck means death" protests Teplice case

The music video as well as the footage of the original June 19 incident have been age restricted by YouTube.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 09.07.2021 14:12 (updated on 09.07.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

The death of Romani man after he was restrained by police in Teplice, North Bohemia, has become the subject of a new hip-hop song. The death has been compared to that of George Floyd in the United States, who dies under similar circumstances.

Both cases involved a police officer kneeling on the victim’s neck for several minutes before the victim died, and both cases have sparked protests over police tactics. Both incidents were documented on cell phone video, which circulated widely.

Filip Šenki, the 15-year-old son of activist and musician Milan Šenki, released a hip-hop video called “To kleknutí na krk znamená smrt” (Kneeling on the Neck Means Death). The video, with English subtitles, is on YouTube but is age restricted, which prevents it from being embedded. You can see it here.

It features the younger Šenki in street clothes, with three companions singing and dancing, intercut with footage of police arresting individual people and responding in riot gear to subdue large crowds.

The lyrics acknowledge that police need to respond to crime, but they have a choice of how to act when they do.

“Kneeling on necks means death; it’s your choice to be a bastard,” is the main refrain of the song.

Romodrom Music Studio, which released the video on its YouTube page, states, “I have nothing against the police, but I don't think a person should be kneeling on another person’s neck.”

Filip Šenki in his video. (Photo: YouTube)
Filip Šenki in his video. (Photo: YouTube)

Milan Šenki directed and filmed the video. He appeared in the 1987 film Bony a klid, 2007 film ROMing, and 2013 miniseries The Burning Bush. He also plays in David Kraus’ backup band.

“Filip and his friends wanted to express their disagreement with the intervention by the police officers in Teplice. He did judo for six years, right now he is dedicating himself to high-level boxing and won a bronze at the national championship this year," Milan Šenki told news server Romea.cz.

"In addition, Filip was trained by a riot response officer who taught him that when rendering your opponent motionless it is better to put your knee on the shoulder blades because the neck is simply a danger zone," he added.

A Romani man in Teplice died in an ambulance on June 19 after police restrained him by kneeling on his neck. Police have not identified the man, but according to Romani media sources, citing friends and relatives, his name is Stanislav Tomáš.

A six-minute video on YouTube of the police kneeling on the man’s neck has now been age-restricted based on the platform's community standards. It has had almost a quarter million views. A separate video released by the police of the victim seeming disoriented in the street and hitting the hood of a car before the police arrive is on Twitter, without restrictions.

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Czech Police say there is no similarity between the Teplice incident and the George Floyd case. They described the Romani man as a repeat offender who was intoxicated and causing property damage, and who refused to follow police instructions to stop. The police also claim the man died from a drug overdose, and not from being restrained by having a knee on his neck for over five minutes.

“[Police actions] had no connection with the death of the deceased. This was confirmed by a court autopsy,” the police tweeted shortly after the incident. People who claim to have known the victim dispute the autopsy findings. The hospital where he was taken also could not comment due to privacy laws.

The Security Corps General Inspection (GIBS) says there was no crime in the police response, and there are no plans to launch criminal proceedings over it.

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Candles and flowers soon appeared on the street where the incident occurred. These included flowers with a black ribbon with the phrase “Romani Lives Matter” (Na romských životech záleží).

A protest in Teplice on July 26 attracted several hundred people, despite police closing off roads to the area for security reasons. Various speakers made comments and a priest delivered a prayer for the deceased man. The protest ended when police told the crowd to disperse and it also started to rain.

Banner saying Roma Lives Matter. (Photo: František Bikár, Romea.cz)
Banner saying Roma Lives Matter. (Photo: František Bikár, Romea.cz)

A protest with about 200 people, mostly of Roma ethnicity, took place in Bucharest, Romania, on June 29. The Roma community in Kosovo and local activists on July 6 staged a protest march to the Czech Embassy. There were also protests in Vienna and London.

The Council of Europe has called for an immediate, thorough, and independent investigation into the event. Russia on July 1 announced support for the request. The Czech branch of Amnesty International has called the police intervention rough and unlawful, and the head of the Sinti and Roma Council in Germany, Romani Rose, described it as inhuman, repugnant and brutal.

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