Gay Pride Parade in Budapest

UPDATE: 06/20/2011 – Hungarian Parliament hears radical far-right party’s protests against the Gay Pride Parade that took place over the weekend in Budapest:

The party’s spokesperson raised the issue in the Hungarian legislature, saying that those who participated in the parade “defiled” both Christianity and democracy in Hungary. She pointed out a “double standard”: that her party’s militia was denied, while “deviants, kissing men and persons imitating sex with dogs” were allowed to march on the streets. (!) She then proceeded to criticize the complacency of the police in the matter, over which, she announced, her party intends to file for court proceedings – since the “homos from abroad” [sic] were engaged in crimes against public decency. At the same time, she deplored the fact that, already one year into the governance of a Christian-democratic coalition, the “matter of homosexuality” remains to be “settled.”

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This blog is quickly becoming the blog almost entirely taken up with anti-fascist reporting.

Remember back in the day when the first reports of anti-Semitism in Hungary were our only reason to be disturbed about the state of Hungarian democracy? That was already more than a decade ago – by now, unfortunately, expressions of anti-Semitism are not even newsworthy any more. Then there were the Roma murders; and, more recently, the siege of Roma neighborhoods by volunteer paramilitary troops. The list of traditional enemies of the neo-nazis is only complete with gays, however. Here’s therefore, the report on the annual match between gays and the far-right protesters harassing them during their parade (I should add that attacking the gay pride parade seems to remain a recurring problem throughout Eastern-Europe. And the news from Hungary on this issue are not so bad when compared to some of its neighbors).

The annual gay pride parade was held in Budapest, Hungary, on June 18; and, unlike in previous years, it did not result in a confrontation between the marchers and those gathering to protest the march. Protecting the gay pride march in Hungary has been increasingly difficult for the police: attacks from far-right protesters interrupted the march to a considerable extent in both 2008 and 2009. The ugliest confrontation took place just last year, when 12 police were injured and 57 of the anti-protesters were taken into custody. At that time, participants of the march had to be evacuated from their gathering at the end of the parade route through the subway system because of their encirclement by anti-protesters.

This year, the police took to trickery. The parade route proceeded, as planned, along Andrassy Avenue, the boulevard-style (and really pretty) road leading from the outer regions of downtown Pest to the Parliament by the Danube. Far-right anti-protesters were waiting for the march to pass at Oktogon, the eight-sided square at the intersection of Andrassy Avenue and another one of Pest’s main thoroughfare. One of their signs had a picture of a noose, with the word “new treatment for gays.”

The pink triangle and the noose speak for themselves. The text says "new treatment for gays."

At the very last minute, however, the police derailed the protest right before they were to walk by the far-right protesters, leading the march away from Andrassy Avenue via a side street, then down a street running parallel to Andrassy Avenue, until they entirely circumvented the protestors and were returned, just a few blocks down from where their detour had started, to Andrassy Avenue. Already panned in and facing a wall of riot police, those protesting the march could not adjust to the route change. A few bottles came flying at the police from the neo-nazis, some anti-protesters were lifted out of the protest and finally the police treated them to some pepper-spray. By the time the skinheads were able to catch up with the march – way down on Deak Square – their chanting of “dirty fags” was completely suppressed by the voices of the supporters welcoming the parade there.

Hungarians in fact refer to their parade as the “Gay Dignity March.” According to press reports, the march numbered a few thousands. This year, its participants carried a political message beyond their effort to win over the population of Hungary to their social cause: they protested against the recently modified constitution of the country, which does not grant the the freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender identification among the civil rights it recognizes.

Hand-made T-shirt reads "Sodom and Gomorrah - this is Budapest and the EU."

Organizing the parade took jumping through an unusual number of hurdles this year. Months before the parade, politicians of Hungary’s conservative government, elected just a year ago, were busy to condemn the idea of the parade. When its organizers requested a longer parade route for their permit, the authorities denied a permit for the parade altogether. The ban did not get lifted except by the intervention of the courts. Politicians of the ruling party, and of their far-right opposition, remained outspoken about their opposition to gay rights nevertheless. For example, the far-right parliamentary party whose supporters waited for the march with vulgarities (a party that received 16% of the votes last year) demanded banning the march, while in an interview a spokesman for the Christian-Democratic Party, a member of the union of parties currently in government emphasized that not even according to the human rights court in Strasbourg is same-sex marriage a human right.

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