A vigil held Friday evening in the Slovakian capital city to honor the two victims killed and a third who was badly wounded in a shooting outside of the Tepláreň bar, a popular LGBTQ establishment in the old city, was also attended by the nation’s president and the European Parliament’s vice president.
Organized by the Iniciatíva Inakosť, an LGBTQ NGO, there were more than an estimated 20,000 people, according to officials. The murders shook the tight-knit Slovakian LGBTQ community and its allies.
Slovakia is a fairly conservative European Union member country where same-sex marriage is not legal.
A spokesperson for the Polícia Slovenskej republiky, the country’s national police force, said that his agency has classified the shootings as premeditated murder, motivated by hatred of a sexual minority.
19-year-old Juraj Krajcik, the radicalized son of a prominent member of the far-right extremist Vlast party, had left social media posts filled with anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ messages including a so-called “manifesto” which the gunman had posted prior to the rampage.
Krajcik, who had an online history of hate-filled rhetoric had posted a picture of himself outside the Tepláreň bar this past August along with other writings and posts that led Polícia Slovenskej republiky investigators to conclude that the crime was planned.
According to Polícia Slovenskej republiky, the gunman was outside of the bar for nearly an hour before opening fire at around 7 p.m. local time on Oct. 12. Investigators said multiple rounds were fired but did not disclose the number nor the weapon used. Police say he was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.
During the vigil for the shooting victims, Slovak President Zuzana Caputova told the crowd, “I’m sorry that our society was not able to protect your loved ones,” adding, “You belong here, you are valuable for our society.”
BBC Europe reported that European Parliament Vice President Michal Simecka was also at Friday’s event. Simecka expressed his determination to have the European legislature discuss the murders during a session next week.
“To express our sympathy, but also to call on the Slovak authorities to take clear steps to put an end to the language of hatred towards LGBTI people,” he said.
In addition to political leadership at Friday evening’s vigil, Elena Martinčoková, the president of the Association of Parents and Friends of LGBTI+ people, spoke expressing her grief and anger towards the environment in the country that fostered far-right hate.
In a Facebook post published by Košice PRIDE, she told the crowd;
“I’m going through a lot of pain. Since I heard about this tragedy, I’m in spirit with the parents of the murdered children. They were adults, but they were mainly children, grandchildren, cousins, friends, colleagues who will be greatly missed and the wound and pain the survivors will feel will never heal.
Many tragedies affect us in life, some of them cannot be prevented. Yes to some of them. And this is exactly the one that could have been prevented. Long-term and intensively spreading and inciting hatred towards LGBT+ people in our public space. It is hatred that blinds people, prevents them from thinking sober.
Certain people are responsible for this tragedy. They are the ones who are intensively and increasingly inciting and spreading hatred towards the LGBTI community. They are all over the place. In the National Council of Slovakia, in government, among many church representatives, in extremist groups, among disinformation spreaders and those who do not have credible information, or when they have it, they do not understand them or do not want to understand. I hope this tragedy will not leave the public indifferent. We must act, we must act now. We will not be quiet. We are not going to be intimidated.”
Video via România liberă, a Romanian daily newspaper founded in 1943 and currently based in Bucharest: