Hungarian Government to Block Opposition Protest on October 23 With Protest of Its Own

The Hungarian government called for a demonstration in support of the government’s policies, which would practically prevent those critical of the government to gather as planned for their biggest anti-government rally of this year on October 23.

In March of this year, One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary, an initiative of the civil sphere organized for the most part on Facebook drew the largest crowd to the streets of Budapest since 1989 in protest of the Orbán government. Since then, they have been hard at work to coordinate another major anti-government rally for October 23, the national day in remembrance of the 1956 revolution. Their permit request for a protest at 4 p.m. on October 23 in Szabad Sajtó Út was filed with the police months ago (located in the heart of Budapest, the protesters favor this location because its name means “Free Press Road”).

Yesterday, on October 5, the organizers received notification from the police that Fidesz, the ruling government party also registered a protest at Astoria, a nearby location. Astoria is not only close to the location of the anti-government protest, it is located just a few hundred meters on the major road of access that many of the protesters would use to get to (and leave) the anti-government protest.

In fact, crowds from the demonstration that One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary put on in March were large enough to overflow to the location at which Orbán’s party now proposes to hold its pro-government rally. If supporters of the government were allowed to gather at this location, anti-government demonstrators would not only be physically hindered in accessing the site of their protest, they would be facing counter-protesters in what could become a volatile crowd control situation.

Demonstration organized by One Million for the Freedom of the Press in Hungary at the same location in March. In the background, the crowd reaches to Astoria, where this time around the government would like to hold a rally of their own.

A government that would mobilize its own supporters to counter-protest the burgeoning opposition movement is of course more commonly found among the despotic regimes of the Middle East than within the European Union. There is something extraordinarily callous however about calling a pro-government rally at the same time and in the same corner of a city as vast as Budapest to neutralize the demonstration long in planning by the opposition.

The organizers of D-day, a series of trade union demonstrations held last weekend also faced soft methods of repression by the Hungarian authorities. At some point, their protests were banned, and only after going through the court process, and in some cases only after a subsequent round of applications were they able to secure protest permits. The authorities for example rejected the request to permit the protest which later did in fact draw large crowds in front of the Parliament, citing in justification that it would interfere with the work of the legislature, which of course is not even in session on a Saturday.

In this instance, however, the government’s plan to call on its followers to disturb another group in its exercise of free speech is beyond cynical. A government-sponsored rally in such proximity of the gathering of the opposition does not simply constitute intimidation of the critics of the Orbán regime. In so far as it risks conflict between the two opposed camps, it is also an indicator of the government’s complete disregard for the safety of anybody who might avail oneself to the right to free assembly in Hungary, regardless of which political cause they might support.

Today (Oct. 6), the organizers of the anti-government demonstration are going to participate in a mediation attempt with the organizers of the pro-government rally at the police headquarters. They are seeking to convince the governing party to move their demonstration to a separate location in Budapest.

[I'll be posting updates here about the outcome of the negotiations.]

UPDATE: 

4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6: The negotiations failed to lead to any result. Representatives of Fidesz stated that they did not know about the rally organized by the opposition at the near-by location. Even upon being told they failed to see the potential danger to the security of their own followers, or the risk to which participants of the opposition rally would be put without a secured road to disperse from their demonstration. In their latest press release, organizers of the anti-government are calling on the Hungarian government to move its demonstration elsewhere. Because the mediation was unsuccessful, it is now up to the police to decide who can protest where. They also are going to make the decision on whose supporters are going to be secured, and by what crowd control means.

FINAL UPDATE:

On Monday, Oct. 15 the Prime Minister’s spokesperson announced that, given the EU summit held in Brussels on the same day, Fidesz cancelled its rally. Prime Minister Orbán cannot be at both places at once, “the impact of the euro’s crisis on Hungary must be warded off, and the Hungarian Prime Minister must be where he is most needed,” the spokesperson explained.

About these ads
This entry was posted in D-Day, demonstrations, English-language Hungarian news, Fidesz, Hungarian government, Hungary, Viktor Orbán and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Hungarian Government to Block Opposition Protest on October 23 With Protest of Its Own

  1. Rigo Jancsi says:

    This leaves me completely speechless. I just read about Belarus, where now people are not allowed to do say something against the government, and they’re not allowed to not to say something… But placing a counter demonstration like this is a much more elegant solution. I’m sure it’s written somewhere in the handbook of despots.
    Is Orbán hoping for a repetition of the big gathering at Astoria in 2006? He’s still living off that event, dragging Gyurcsány around. But this time, he’s the government, and any police violence would fall back on him.

  2. pusztaranger says:

    My guess at this point is they want to hijack the event for their own PR, there will be MTI-pictures of this HUGE crowd from Erzsébet Bridge to Blaha, claiming it as the Fidesz-gig, and news on “a small number of protesters”.

  3. Paul says:

    Well the police might just decide in favour of the originally booked demonstration…
    Not likely, I know, but the police are also at odds with OV, so it’s possible.

    And if that did happen, I would start to believe there might, just might, be hope that OV can be stopped out before it’s too late after all.

  4. At first I thought it was straight from the handbook of the far-right. Remember neo-Nazi “private individual,” Zoltan Gyimesi was his name I believe, of Hatvannegy Varmegye, who tried the same trick at the Sziget festival? He also must have been completely unaware that a music festival has been organized at his preferred protest date and site every year for the last 20 years. He then used every opportunity to complain about the curtailment of his “constitutional rights,” but really his purpose was to disturb the event, and perhaps even to provoke a conflict as well.
    But the idea of this counter-protest is way more insidious because, at the mediation talks at least, Fidesz was talking about the “historical precedent.” When Fidesz famously held a rally at Astoria on Oct. 23 in 2006, their crowd was blocking this important intersection; ‘Fidesz rally at Astoria’ brings back memories of violence to the Hungarians reading about these news.

  5. pusztaranger says:

    “‘Fidesz rally at Astoria’ brings back memories of violence to the Hungarians reading about these news.”
    Of course, that’s the whole point. Never mind they did their rally elsewhere last year and 2009, they need the “historical tradition” of 2006, because (my guess of the script) they will have their “day of reckoning” for what happened 2006 at the very spot, presenting the “victory of justice” (like Gyurcsány behind bars), and what Fidesz didn’t archieve in 2006 with the 50th anniversary of 1956 (“true” change after 1989 / putsch of “the people”), they will finally establish at its 55th anniversary. Something like that.

  6. Paul says:

    I may be being a little slow here, but how can a bunch of right-wing hooligans beating up demonstrators and fighting the ploice in 2011 be a “day of reckoning” for a bunch of right-wing hooligans beating up protestors and fighting policemen in 2006?

  7. Pingback: Zivile Massenproteste in Budapest am 23. Oktober: Im Kessel zwischen Fidesz und Jobbik? « Pusztaranger

  8. Janos says:

    “It’s getting better all the time,” to quote the Beatles. The recipe is complete, with all the ingredients in place.. All you have to do now is cook the soup. Provoke violence big-time, and then complain endlessly about Fidesz’s peaceful demonstrators having been brutally attacked by “anti-government deviants” and, possibly, totally confused policemen. Make sure the media narrative of what really happened is as different from the truth as possible. This is exactly what was is being done up to this day with regard to 2006.

  9. I just read something interesting that was not noted anywhere else: apparently the Fidesz rally is not held in remembrance of 1956, but “in remembrance of the victims of police violence in 2006″:
    http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=479121
    (phrasing at the beginning of 4th paragraph)
    If that’s true, the threat of violence is not simply insinuated. It is almost openly a “day of reckoning” then!

  10. @Paul: “how can a bunch of right-wing hooligans beating up demonstrators and fighting the ploice in 2011 be a “day of reckoning” for a bunch of right-wing hooligans beating up protestors and fighting policemen in 2006?”
    I think because a. the Hungarian right claims that it was Gyurcsany who sent the police on the bunch of right-wing hooligans in 2006 b. but this time around, it would be because the Fidesz government did so! so c. there is a sense that an injustice in 2006 is returned because now the tables have turned.
    Never mind whether premise a. works, the point is that people have been primed to cry for retribution at the mention of the name “Gyurcsany.” Never mind that c. is is not true (since if the same thing happens, then the tables precisely have NOT turned). And never mind that c. does not follow form a. and b. – that’s the “abnormal psychology” part. No, I don’t think that c. would follow for most people, but I can see that in a culture so polarized and so preoccupied with division rather than unity, it could make sense to Orban’s followers.
    (If we wanted to go further into the question of why there is a need for “retribution,” I think the answer would be because the Orban government does not yet feel powerful enough. One should never underestimate the insecurities of dictators, that’s why they are so dangerous to the lives of others.
    Or, if we are talking about Orban’s followers, they might need proof that the tables have turned because they probably do not really feel different after 1.5 years of Orban’s rule – this would probably be true on an everyday, “how well off do I think I am” level.)

  11. pusztaranger says:

    “Remember neo-Nazi “private individual,” Zoltan Gyimesi was his name I believe, of Hatvannegy Varmegye, who tried the same trick at the Sziget festival?”

    Fidesz MEP Tamás Deutsch (“who the f*** is Thomas Melia”) had the same idea, but he is using this argument against EMS, insinuating they want to hijack the Fidesz event. Never mind EMS got their permit in July, when nobody had a clue Fidesz wants to be at Astoria.
    “Szerintem csak ugyanaz a barom lehet a 64vármegye Szigetes, meg az 1millióan a magyar sajtószabadságért Erzsébet-hidas tüntetés helyfoglalója. Szerintetek külső megbízásos (céges) alapon csinálja (x ft plusz ÁFA), vagy mindkét mozgalom lelkes tagja?”

    http://yamm.hu/dajcstomi/121971317414166528-szerintem-csak-ugyanaz-a

    • ke says:

      This is very practical. Are you coming/going to the EMS demo? Frankly, I am getting scared. I realize this is the point, but still.

      • Anonymous says:

        @ke: It’s just like you say. This is precisely the point. How can simply exercising your constitutional right get to the point where it becomes a matter of physical courage? What that means is that this country has ceased to be a European democracy. What that means is that you are not allowed to express your opinion freely any longer. In practical terms, from now on, it’s your decision and yours alone whether you take the very real risks involved, and participate. I’m not too courageous myself but I think I’ll risk it, That, however, does not mean that I can, or will, pass judgement on anybody who will not.

  12. EBE says:

    What they will remember from 2006? I remember that many Fidesz members were unhappy that no live ammunition were used. Will they remember the soccer hooligans who were throwing Molotov cocktails? What a farce. What a joke. Perfectly fit for Orban, lots of fluff, no substance.

  13. janos444 says:

    An update: Since Fidesz would not budge, the demonstarotrs have decided to move the starting time an hour forward (as well as the stage a 100 meters up right on to Elizabeth Bridge) to be farther from Fidesz’s “remembrance” rally in order to lessen the threat of conflict both in space and time.

  14. Thanks for the update on what’s happening. I try to take an inpartial view, but it’s definately an exciting thing to read about

  15. janos444 says:

    The latest update which, I suppose, you all know about is that Fidesz has decided to call off their rally because Orbán will have to be in Brussels at a summit meeting of European leaders on that day. As a matter of fact, it has been my secret opinion from the very beginning that Fidesz never really intended to hold a rally in the first place (not a single preparatory move was made, no posters, no appeals for the faithful to come out in numbers, nothing). The real intention was to frighten off any would-be participants of the opposition rally as possible. If I happen to be wrong and a rally was really planned, it seem pretty ridiculous that if El Líder happens to be absent, Fidesz cannot muster a single speaker able to draw a crowd of the required size.
    .

  16. Pingback: Hungarian Opposition Group Harassed by Tax Authority | The Contrarian Hungarian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s