Three policemen and four protesters suffered injuries after violent clashes broke out the rally in Radnevo, the Bulgarian interior ministry said on Thursday.
Around 2,000 people joined the protest on Wednesday evening, following an incident in which four men of Roma origin assaulted three Bulgarians in a street row on Monday.
The violence erupted when the crowd, shouting “Bulgaria for the Bulgarians”, “Bulgarians – heroes”, “Bulgaria above all” and various anti-Roma slogans, reached the Roma neighbourhood of Kantona, which was cordoned off by interior ministry special forces.
Some of the protesters tried to break through the barricades and enter the Roma neighbourhood, throwing stones and fireworks at the policemen, who responded by dispersing the crowd with batons.
According to Radnevo’s mayor Tenyo Tenev, the people who tried to break through the barricades were football hooligans from the nearby city of Stara Zagora.
Speaking to public broadcaster BNT on Thursday, Tenev called on the people of Radnevo, a town of around 13,000 inhabitants, to protest peacefully.
Tenev alleged that the incident that sparked the tensions was caused by one Roma family.
“The people are fed up with the wrongdoings of this family, of their shameless, aggressive and arrogant behaviour,” he told media on Wednesday.
The family has so far made no public response to the mayor’s allegations.
Four people - a Roma man called Kalcho Ivanov and three of his relatives - were arrested and charged with attempted murder after they allegedly beat up three young men from Radnevo on Monday.
One of the victims was admitted to hospital with a life-threatening knife-stab wound.
The suspects' lawyer claimed however that one of the Roma men, Stefan Ivanov, was severely beaten up by the Bulgarians.
People in Radnevo are now organising another rally, scheduled for Thursday evening.
Meanwhile, people from the Roma neighbourhood told media that they are afraid for their lives and most of its inhabitants have temporarily left, moving in with friends and relatives outside Radnevo.
Wednesday’s clashes were not unprecedented in Bulgaria, where in recent years tensions between people from Roma and ethnic Bulgarian backgrounds have erupted several times, usually over crime-related issues.
The most violent clashes took place in 2011, when anti-Roma protests were held all over the country following tragic accidents in the southern Bulgarian village of Katunitsa which led to the deaths of two young Bulgarian boys.
In 2015, protesters also occupied Roma ghettos in the southern Bulgarian village of Garmen, as well as in Sofa’s Orlandovtsi neighbourhood, but police prevented any violence from breaking out.
Source: Balkan Insight