Gay Pride Day in Budapest

It happened as everyone knew it would. Far-right organizations announced days ago that they were organizing a counterdemonstration against the peaceful demonstration of gays, lesbians, and sympathizers. They called upon their followers to bring their cameras and take pictures of the demonstrators. (It will be interesting to see where these pictures end up.) But these far-right elements are never satisfied with such peaceful equipment as cameras. They like potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, and, if they run out of these, rocks will also do. And there must be flags. Lots of them, Hungarian and quasi Nazi flags. About 3,000 people took part in the gay pride parade; there were about 300 counterdemonstrators. To keep order there were about 100 policemen. The final result: six, seven, or eight people–this is not quite clear–were arrested.

As I said earlier, this was not a surprise. What was somewhat unexpected was that the Hungarian police behaved in a professional and decisive manner. Something one couldn’t say about the police last fall. In late September when a mob attacked the public television station they didn’t have enough men, they didn’t have the right equipment, and basically they were unable to defend the building. A month later, during the October riots, they were a bit better equipped and had more men, but the final result was an odd mixture of too defensive a posture on the one hand and too aggressive a behavior on the other. In defense of the Hungarian police one must admit that this was an entirely new situation for which they were not really trained. Or if they were trained, they had no occasion to practice. Rioting, with the exception of occasional football hooliganism, was unknown in Hungary. But they are learning, it seems.

This time they proved themselves capable. As soon as someone threw an egg, he found himself on the ground and two seconds later in the paddy wagon. The counterdemonstrators seemed to be taken aback. They didn’t expect such decisive action. Perhaps they were hoping that the same thing would happen in Budapest that happened in Russia and in Romania, where the police broke up the demonstration of the gays and lesbians. It didn’t happen this way. Perhaps there is still hope.