The peaceful Hungarian demonstrators, September-October 2006

I think it's time to spend yet another post on the events of September-October 2006. I'd like to try to set the record straight concerning the alleged police brutality Krisztina Morvai and the supporters of Fidesz and/or Jobbik keep talking about. It is especially timely to bring up the "siege of the MTV headquarters" because yesterday six people received sentences in connection with the "siege." The "dictatorship" of the communists is so severe, the judges pass such "rigged" sentences–to use Krisztina Morvai's words–that it took three years to come up with the verdicts. And how severe they were! The six men received sentences of either one or two years suspended for three years. The material loss was considerable to both the television station and to the police. About 100 million forints, 70 million of which was suffered by the Hungarian police force.

It all started with a demonstration of about 5,000 at Kossuth Square. Some of the demonstrators, about 400 in number, moved on to the headquarters of MTV not far from there. They wanted to read a proclamation on air demanding the resignation of the government. When the television staff didn't allow them to enter, all hell broke loose. The police, totally unprepared for such an event, couldn't prevent the mob from entering the building where looting took place. Their comrades outside set cars on fire and threw rocks at the policemen. Several policemen were severely injured in the attack.

The sentences are ridiculously light, but we can't blame the judges: the prosecutor himself was only asking for suspended sentences. In December five others were sentenced in a similar manner. About thirty more people are still awaiting a judgment of their cases. It is unlikely that they will receive more severe sentences. As legal experts noted in today's Népszava, if sentences are passed three years after the crime was committed, the "verdict lacks seriousness and deterrence."

Let me show you a picture taken at the scene. As you can see here the "peaceful demonstrators" are on top of the situation while the policemen are the underdogs.

MTC ostrom

I also highly recommend reading the findings of the Gönczöl Committee, especially the English summary. It is also worth looking at the videos of four different television stations taken on September 18 and on October 23. The YouTube videos are not worth looking at because they were mostly placed by those who sympathize with the demonstrators. They show the police trying to arrest struggling demonstrators but they don't show the earlier events. In brief, we don't know why the police are doing what they are doing.

I did manage to find one interesting picture: a man with a sling shot.Sling shot This is a mean sling shot and obviously this guy came to this "peaceful demonstration" well prepared. Note that his face is covered because these cowards normally hide behind masks. All in all, I have a fairly low opinion of the people who take every opportunity to create havoc. I have the feeling that it really doesn't matter what the occasion is: soccer game, national holiday, gay parade. These are hoodlums, hooligans, primitive characters who are looking for a nice little fight. With anyone. At any occasion.

As for the peaceful demonstrators. How did they get mixed up with the troublemakers? Easily. Viktor Orbán organized the Fidesz demonstration "celebrating" the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 in front of the Astoria Hotel only a few blocks from where the not so nice guys were gathering. The spot was chosen purposely. He wanted the two groups to meld into one very large one with the idea of a mass demonstration that may lead to the resignation of the government. That didn't pan out. So came the next best thing: to turn the event into a showcase of police brutality. And that worked admirably. Krisztina Morvai, in those days in the service of Fidesz, together with Fidesz MP Zoltán Balog, chairman of the committee dealing with human rights, organized their own investigative committee, wrote up their own version of events, and peddled it all over Europe. It was the most brilliant rewriting of history I have ever seen. It just shows that if someone repeats the same lie over and over, eventually it will stick. They are good at it. Unfortunately.

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While I agree with what you say in broad lines, I do not agree with the suggestion that only Fidesz is to blame for the mix up of two crowds on the 23d: extreme right-wing hooligans and peacefull Fidesz demonstrators. Sure, Orbán picked the Astoria location for the purpose you mentioned, which was totally and utterly irresponsible. But what happened in the end was definitely also caused by huge blunders of the police, who were clearly totally unprepared and unexperienced (as they were at MTV). I remember very well being there and seeing things unfold on the 23d: the small disturbances, the “tank”-incident and the stronger and stronger charges by the police. At a certain point, me and a friend, who both have quit some experience in this kind of riots (from both sides of the barricade so to speak), said to each other that if police didn’t change tactics soon, things would go terribly wrong. Because they were clearly charging in the wrong direction, pushing the hooligans slowly but surely back … to Astoria. They should have closed off the thoroughway to the Fidesz crowd and then pushed the hooligans elsewhere with their charges, teargas and battons, but they… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh

Hank: “[we] said to each other that if police didn’t change tactics soon, things would go terribly wrong. Because they were clearly charging in the wrong direction, pushing the hooligans slowly but surely back … to Astoria.”
I saw it slightly differently. They were unable to stop them from going toward Astoria in addition to not closing the side streets that lead in that direction. Another thing you may want to note that although the police were in touch with the organizers of the Fidesz rally and asked them to tell the people not to leave the scene in the direction of Deák tér they either didn’t tell the participants or they didn’t listen to them. This is how Máriusz Révész ended up there. You may have also mentioned that Orbán anticipated trouble and his borrowed armored car was standing ready to go toward the Danube and Elizabeth Bridge. He knew what was coming.