More than 60,000 people packed into a park in Bucharest, Romania, on Wednesday to see [artist id="1098"]Madonna[/artist] perform. The Material Girl, fresh from announcing the details of her upcoming greatest-hits set , had the crowd eating out of her palm — that is, until she denounced the pandemic discrimination of Gypsies. Then, the crowd turned on her.
According to The Associated Press, in the middle of her two-hour set, following a stage performance that including Gypsy musicians and performers, Madonna paused for a moment for a speech against discrimination. Though she eventually spoke about all forms of discrimination, she began by discussing the treatment of Gypsies (also known as Roma or Romanies), a nomadic people with roots in the Indian subcontinent.
“It has been brought to my attention … that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies, and Gypsies in general, in Eastern Europe,” she stated before the audience. “It made me feel very sad.”
The AP reported that thousands in attendance began booing Madonna, though a few cheered as she added, “We don’t believe in discrimination. … We believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone.” The booing returned when she decried discrimination against homosexuals and other groups. Ironically, these same fans were cheering the Gypsy performers just before her speech.
Madonna, however, did not acknowledge the crowd’s reaction, carrying on with the remainder of the show, held outside the palace of late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Human-rights activists maintain that Gypsies, who were largely a slave race until the 19th century, suffer perhaps more humiliation and endure more discrimination than any other people on the continent. Recent attacks targeting Gypsies in nearby Hungary have left six killed and several with severe injuries.
While Madonna’s stance certainly raised a few eyebrows and renewed interest in Gypsy persecution, experts says its doubtful her words will effect any sort of change. One told the AP: “Madonna is a pop star. She is not an expert on interethnic relations.”