They demonstrated in masses for the freedom of the press in March, and now they are back, with plenty more to protest against. This time, the Hungarian Facebook group One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary (EMS) expects more than 100,000 participants at their “Don’t Like The System” demonstration. Organizing the event was far from easy, but the protest is finally under way at 3:10 pm. Story continually updated below during the protest.
7:20 pm: Final update: The demonstration ended without any atrocities and, despite the unfavorable weather conditions, the organizers managed to repeat the same turnout they had drawn in March 15. Independent Hungarian newspapers emphasize the “liberated” spirit of the protest in their summaries. Some point out that young and old stood shoulder to shoulder to protest the government. They give details of the civil sphere initiatives represented at the protest and their various causes (the movement against the country’s media law, its constitution, the treatment of the Roma and the homeless, attacks on the country’s cultural institutions, the erosion of democracy, the push-back against workers’ rights and the arrogance of the government and its rule by force). The reports also pick up on the initiative to elect an “alternative president” announced today by One Million for the Freedom of the Press in Hungary, which is the new campaign leading up to their next protest on March 15 of next year. The vague number “many tens of thousands” remains the crowd estimate in these reports.
6:00 pm: There has been no mention whatsoever of any opposition rally until 5:52 pm on hirado.hu, which is an online news portal for the news produced by various state-owned media. Right now, however, the demonstration is their lead story.
The reporting is three paragraphs long and contains four sentences. The one sentence which is about the intentions behind the protest: “the speakers spoke of organizing thus far missing forces, and that they think it necessary to unify democratic forces. The goal of this is ‘to found anew the republic, to create a fourth republic,’ they said.” Not one word indicating that this was a protest critical of the government, or the various reasons for the protesters’ dissatisfaction with its policies.
5:30 pm: Origo still uses the term “several thousands” as its crowd estimate (though they promise a longer report on the protest by 7 pm). Index reports that about 200 demonstrators (in other accounts, 1000) proceeded to Szabadság tér from the Don’t Like The System demonstration. They belong to the Hungarian Solidarity Movement and this is not a part of the EMS program. The group is in front of the TV building to light a candle in remembrance of the police injured during the violent protests that marked the 50th anniversary of Oct. 23 in 2006.
5:05 pm: Available crowd estimate: Népszabadság uses the term “rengeteg” (a vast or immense number). Other sources: several tens of thousands.
Also, finally I was able to get caught up on how the protest ended (the live feed was experiencing technical difficulties toward the end). Péter Juhász, the official spokesperson of the organizers ended the demonstration. He had a number of demands. First off, “constitutionality instead of a constitution” (the reference is to the constitution that was voted into law this spring). Also, a new president, “one not famous solely for his spelling mistakes.” Their group now accepts nominations for an “alternative president of the republic” – his or her name is going to be announced on March 15, 2012 (sounds like the date of the next protest). 50,000 “press ID” were also distributed randomly in the protest, because a new kind of “public transparency” (nyilvánosság) is needed. The closing words: “Long live, instead of the constitution, constitutionality; long live the Republic; and long live Liberty!”
4:55 pm: Update based on MTI – the newswire of the state-owned Hungarian news agency: reports of the Hungarian Socialist Party’s ceremonial unveiling of “Viktor Orbán’s empty space” at Astoria, where the government was going to hold a counter-demonstration against the opposition protest. Report of far-right party Jobbik’s protest, with speakers like the well-known skinhead-turned-MP Tamás “Roy” Schneider and Gábor Vona. Their banner says: “1956: The tanks went out, the banks came in.” So far, only one picture of the protest on the country’s official news wire. Only one picture of the protest on the Hungarian news wire so far.
Those who thought they could estimate the crowds from the web feed of street cameras complain that the live feed was replaced by a night view (probably from yesterday). This also happened on March 15 (during the previous demonstration organized by the same group).
4:30 pm: The protest ended. But stay tuned for more photos and anything else I might be able to find online.
4:25 pm: Pictures:
According to press reports, the crowd reaches to Ferencziek Tere (Square of the Franciscans) and not to Astoria, as previously reported (though most people accessed the protest from Astoria, so there is a crowd all the way to Astoria). At any rate, Ferencziek Tere is where these two people stand. If you look in the distance, next to the yellow church you’ll see a little white spot – that’s the LED screen next to the stage.
4:15 pm: And finally a live performance of the “Don’t Like This System” song – with the instructions “sing the refrain real loud, so hat they can hear it all the way in Brussels!” It’s too bad that my live feed has been silent for the last 15 minutes. (What is the “Don’t Like This System” song? You can find the video clip with English subtitles, as well as the story of some of the controversies around it here).
4:10 pm: Balázs Dénes of TASZ (the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union) was on stage.
3:55: András Istvánffy of 4K! on stage (4K! stands for Fourth Republic. The Hungarian Republic is also known as the Third Republic). The most fiery speech so far. Istvánfy is drawing a parallel between the regime in the late 1980s and the current government. Back then, the political elite was removed from the people, who were indifferent to politics because they were not represented. Twenty years later, the regime change of 1989 failed with the Orbán regime. Back in 1956, there was a historical event against the regime. This time around, a new foundation of (a fourth) republic must be built from the buttom up. Crowd chants: “Orbán, get lost!”
3:50 pm: Csákányi and Kulka back on stage (they are well-known actors in Hungary). Why does the government have to “reach for guns” when they hear the word “culture,” what is the point of renaming streets and squares, why close cultural workshops? There is a government-sponsored insanity going on, said Kulka. “Let’s respect one another’s competency [this is a reference to the demand that theater directors should be appointed in accordance with the selection of an expert jury - the appointment of extreme right supporter György Dörner was made against their recommendations]. What we elect every four years is not elect a father-tsar,” added Csákányi.
3:45 pm: “It is not because of the weather that there are so many of us”:
3:40 pm: Szilvásy Gipsy Folk Band playing on stage of a remix of famous 60s song “This would be the time to stop it” (Most kéne abbahagyni).
3:35 pm: Marianna Jónás is speaking “as a Hungarian, European and Roma woman intellectual,” against the government’s policies criminalizing poverty, homelessness, and for “having desperate people do by hand what machines can do” and calling it a policy of job creation.
3:30 pm: The crowd reaches to Astoria (what would have been the location of the pro-government rally) – no size estimates yet.
3:25 pm: Réka Kinga Papp is on stage, for the Network of University Students (Hallgatói Hálózat).
3:22 pm: Péter Juhász of EMS speaks: we don’t like this system – the crowd chants “we don’t like it.” He welcomes new and already existing civil organizations at the protest, among the new Solidarity movement, and The City Belongs to All and other civil rights groups.
3:20 pm: Eszter Csákányi and János Kulka, MCs of the protest speak. There were tens of thousands of us here on March 15, yet the Hungarian press managed to write off our protest. The two speak about why they do not like the system: it is a system of intimidation (and many other things, I’m only catching about one/tenth of it). This system is not without its alternative, we are its civil alternative.
3:15 pm: You can watch the protest on two Live Streams:
also see: livestream.com/nemtetszik
3:10 pm: Documentary film clip accompanied about 1956 accompanied with live classical music starts the program in a solemn spirit.
3 pm: First reports from the protest: it’s raining. We could use a lot more rain-coats and umbrellas, but it doesn’t matter. (photos to come in next update).
Before the protest: Remembrances of the revolution of 1956 started yesterday, though so far, not many of them drew larger crowds. Saturday afternoon, the protest against the appointment of Dörner drew about 1000 participants (I’ll be able to write more about it in next week’s Hungarian News Digest). Yesterday’s events however were overshadowed by the split of the Hungarian Socialist Party.
Over 500 different events were planned and are being held in remembrance of 1956 in Hungary. Before leaving for Vienna, Pál Schmitt participated in a ceremony outside of the Parliament. Viktor Orbán is already in Brussels, he told the Hungarian Radio that “my place really should not be in Brussels rights now.” Jobbik celebrated in Gyöngyöspata, and is holding another rally in Budapest, at József Nádor Square.