Two gatherings, one comprised of football fans, and another demonstration by far-right Mi Hazánk, were held yesterday in the wake of last week’s fatal stabbing in downtown Budapest. The larger one, that of the fans, attracted some 3,000 people, and beside some anti-Roma slogans, it went on peacefully. The events still drew controversy, as many fear racism, and weeks ago police showed their other face in a government-critical demonstration.
The shocking tragedy occurred last Thursday evening, when following a brawl, two youngsters had been stabbed to death by another teenager. While the case certainly shocked the country, certain radical groups and pro-government tabloids immediately spoke of the perpetrators alleged Roma identity, this leading to yet more uproar and debate, often ranging from racist generalizations to accusations. In addition, both young victims were football fans, and one of them allegedly had far-right links too.
Contrary however, to what certain extremist and pro-government sites first aired, there is still no evidence about the identity of those in pre-trial detention, and even according to the latest rumors, they weren’t Roma.
First, it was the far-right Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland) party who held an unauthorized demonstration in front of the National Roma Self-Government in Dohány street. The party’s well-known members spoke of the existence of “gypsy crime” and demanded the halt of Roma integration programs and instead to channel that funding over to the re-introduction of the gendarmerie (feared law enforcement unit of the pre-WW2 era).
The far-right party then walked down to the site of the tragedy, with the aim of, according to critics, infiltrate and making political capital out of the much larger and broader event. At this place, football fans were already gathering in a separately organized “memorial.” Although this latest event drew around 3,000 hardcore football fans in addition to openly racist Betyársereg and other extremist organizations, it went calmly. At some point, however, participants chanted about “gypsy crime.”
Many were still shocked about the events and police’s attitude considering that in the previous weeks, police handed out gigantic fines for the participants of the smaller-scale, government-critical, peaceful and epidemiologically perhaps more responsible car-honking demonstrations.
This is what the Budapest mayor and other government-critical personalities also noted and referred to. Independent MP Bernadett Szél said that yesterday the police had peacefully assisted so that the participants of an illegal demonstration could march through the streets of Budapest while chanting racist slogans. According to her, “the government is doing politics more and more undisguised through the police.” In addition, Fidesz and Viktor Orbán are directly responsible for inciting hatred towards the Roma, as they themselves have incited against children excluded from education in Gyöngyöspata, she said.
In addition, in a Facebook post, the Budapest mayor was also critical. According to Gergely Karácsony, there was “no place for this kind of filthy hatred here or anywhere.” While the authorities have no business taking action against people who express their opinions peacefully, they are obliged to stop “Nazis from upsetting the order of the city,” he added.
One of the chief organizers of the fans’ protest, however, rebuffed the Nazi claims and insisted that the remembrance had no racial feature. Újpest’s (one of the victims was an Újpest fan) former mayor Zsolt Wintermantel (Fidesz) also criticized the Budapest mayor for collectively labeling people in rightful protest as nazis. He called it shameful that Karácsony failed to pay tribute to the victims.
Anyhow, according to police information, at the site of Mi Hazánk’s rally, a total of 34 citations were handed out, while six were taken to the police station for possessing objects dangerous to public safety, liberal HVG reported. In addition, at night, two were arrested in connection with assault against a minority group, which was related to the afternoon events.
images by Tamás Kovács/MTI