Bukovany, Czech Republic – A severe police intervention recently took place on a hemp plantation near Bukovany, a village located about 100 kilometres north from Prague. The owner of the field complained that the officers used unwarranted violence against employees who were harvesting his legal crop. The whole incident might also have a racial undertones, as the victims were all of Roma origin.
A local company Mabeko owned by Jan Bešík has been successfully growing and processing industrial hemp for further use in construction and industrial insulation for many years. But on the 29th of September he experienced something he would have never expected to experience – a violent police raid. “An ordinary harvest day turned into blood and tears. The legal forces had probably mistaken our hemp field for illegal cannabis grow and acted accordingly – attacking holiday workers as if they were drug dealers and criminals,” Bešík wrote on his Facebook account.
Nobody knew what’s going to happen
Ten labourers of Roma origin were working on the hemp field when they were suddenly interrupted by eight local police officers who literally stormed the place. “We were having a lunch break when they arrived. We felt no urge to be aggressive or resistant as we knew we were doing nothing wrong. The hemp does not contain any THC and is officially approved by the Customs Authority of the Czech Republic,” one of the workers explained.
The police officers from the city of Ceska Lipa arrived, according to their spokesman, to check what plant was actually being harvested: “We just wanted to examine the nature of the crops as well as investigate whether the workers were entitled to perform the work in question. We needed to verify their identity and confirm that the action being taken was in accord with the legal regulations.”
According to the working staff, the “verification” took a downward turn surprisingly quickly: “We were cooperative, but the officers attacked us with batons and tear gas just as we were getting up to submit our ID’s.”
Pepper spray and physical assaults
Based on the testimony of the workers, the police used tear gas to strike one of them down to the ground and proceeded to beat him down and kick him. Eventually, the man was handcuffed. His 17-year-old son tried to stand up for him but was given the same treatment: “They would blind him with the pepper spray, strangle him, pushed his head against the ground and ultimately they would suggest they had firing arms they could use,” the witnesses describe. Jan Bešík says the boy wetted himself in fear, while panic burst out among his employees who were trying to protect one another from the blows they were receiving.
The tension only released when one of the supervisors – the only present worker who was not of a Roma origin – came on the scene and managed to explain the officers that the crop is just hemp, not cannabis, and that the harvest was fully approved by the Customs Authority. He finally managed to calm the young policemen down, right at the time when they started to threaten the workers with guns.
“Why they wouldn’t simply enquire by the customs straight away is a mystery to me,” Bešík says.
The police spokesman Ivana Balakova refused to admit that the use of force was uncalled for: “The subjects would not obey the officers’ orders to present their ID’s. One of the men ignored them completely. So they had to use force against some partakers including a 17-year-old who attempted to obstruct the legal actions.” She acknowledged that tear gas, handcuffs and the necessary physical force were among the measures applied during the intervention, while denying the use of a baton.
The two alleged violators were afterwards taken to the police station in the town of Novy Bor to have their identity confirmed – and were released soon afterwards. “Both of the men are being charged for minor offenses, and this will be a subject to further legal procedures,” Balakova said.
The harvest continues – or does it?
Despite being bruised and battered, the attacked worker and his brother proceeded with the harvest – unlike the rest of the group. “They won’t come back. They are afraid of what might come next. I guess it means we won’t be able to complete the harvest here,” Jan Bešík concludes angrily.
A shocked and irritated owner immediately sought a legal advice: “I feel obliged to demand the case to be investigated thoroughly. That is the least I can do. I want those who are responsible for the intervention to apologize to my employees and admit that it was their fault and that their information was incorrect. At the same time, I do not ask for financial compensation of my losses.” He believes that the whole accident is a result of the mindless criminalization of cannabis.
What the Customs say
“The Mabeko company possesses all the necessary permits and their hemp field is absolutely legal. The local PD has recently inquired about it and received this information from us,” confirms the Customs Authorities spokesman Martin Stočes.
Bešík also said he has been growing legal hemp for a third year in a row in this location – without ever having a single problem with the law enforcement. According to the official statement, the local PD officers decided “merely” to examine the circumstances of this particular harvest.
However, the witnesses and victims confirm they saw two police cars rushing through fields like in Hollywood action movie and assaulting peaceful workers as if they were some highly dangerous criminals or posed any danger to them.
The police too promised to investigate the event: “The action will be subject to internal investigation, the results of which shall be presented to public upon its completion,” said the police spokesman Ivana Balakova.
The only problem is that, in the Czech Republic particularly, “internal investigation” usually means sweeping accusations under the carpet and put the police officers in the clear.