EXCLUSIVE: Anti-discrimination council asks Bucharest mayor to explain “black people’s bar” comments

Foto: INQUAM/Bogdan Dănescu

Romania’s anti-discrimination council is investigating whether remarks about a „black people’s bar” made by Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea could be considered racist.

President of the Council to Combat Discrimination, Ferenc Csaba Asztalos, told universul.net on Wednesday that the council had initiated an inquiry into Firea’s comments.

That came after universul.net wrote an article on Monday saying Firea had been left open to accusations of racism after she said Prime Minister Ludovic Orban’s office used to look like “a black people’s bar” when he was deputy mayor of Bucharest.

Asztalos said the 47-year-old mayor would be invited for a hearing at the council next week to explain her remarks.

The council will then meet in January to discuss the case and issue a decision, he said. He declined to comment on her remarks, citing the inquiry.

Firea, who announced this weekend she would seek another term as mayor, made the incendiary remarks about  political rival Orban in a television interview on Sunday.

 “Since his days as the deputy mayor, he’d be sitting in his office like it was a black people’s bar (bar de negri in Romanian), just booze, just cigarettes and disease-ridden people,” she told Antena 3. “I see that Mr Orban has made no effort to raise his level.”

Orban was deputy mayor from 2004 to 2007. Firea was elected mayor in 2016 and will run in local elections next year. It was not clear how she knew about Orban’s office as they did not work at the city hall at the same time.

Commentator Stelian Tanase told universul.net it was  “a racist remark based on a lie about Orban.” He said Firea “radicalized” a disagreement between the pair after Orban said she was a bad administrator of the city of more than two million.

“Racism and sexism is at the base of the Social Democratic Party which has its roots in communism,” Tanase told universul.net. In other controversial comments, Social Democrat Senator Serban Nicolae called President Klaus Iohannis ‘a Nazi’ in a reference to his ethnic German roots, earning a rebuke from the Elie Wiesel Center.

The expression “black people’s bar” refers to laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The laws, known as Jim Crow laws, mandated the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains for whites and blacks. They were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The council was set up in 2002 to educate and combat instances of discrimination. It has regularly been called to rule on remarks made by Romanian politicians and other public figures.



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