I wanted to write about the national holiday, August 20, St. Stephen’s Day, but something else came up. Another incident of Gypsy-baiting. This time in Cegléd, a town not far from Kecskemét and Szolnok, about 70 km south of Budapest. It has a population of 38,000 with a fairly large Roma population that lives on the outskirts of the town.
The neo-Nazis have provoked two incidents within one month. The first took place in Devecser in Transdanubia, the site of the red sludge disaster two years ago. There two neighbors got into a fairly violent argument–neither side was exactly innocent–that prompted Jobbik to organize a demonstration against “Gypsy crime” that ended up being not at all peaceful. During the demonstration rocks were thrown at the houses of the Roma families while one of the “warriors” with singularly bad aim hurled a rock right at one of the onlooking Jobbik MPs.
This so-called demonstration was hardly over when a new incident took place. The first report I found about it was in kuruc.info: “Spontaneous demonstration in Cegléd against Gypsy crime.” The article claims that the “locals got fed up with the looting of the Gypsies and with the police that refuse to do anything against them.” According to the report, the population was outraged and “the people of Cegléd asked the New Hungarian Guard” to come to their rescue. (As you may recall, the Hungarian Guard was banned but then came the New Hungarian Guard, so everything goes on as before.) Late at night, the report continues, “one cannot see Gypsies anywhere but there are many police cars on the streets.” As it turned out, the police were not on the streets to shield the defenseless non-Roma population of Cegléd from the Gypsies but rather to defend the Gypsies from “the units of the New Hungarian Guard that remained in town.”
But that wasn’t the end of the story. According to Szent Korona Rádió, on August 17 “the patriots [members of the New Hungarian Guard and other riff-raff] were trying to approach the houses of the Gypsies but the police stopped them.” A few football fans from the Újpest-Ferencváros match came to join the members of the New Hungarian Guard, the HVIM, and the Gendarmerie, another neo-Nazi group. The ones who remained in Budapest managed to ruin a few buses and streetcars after the game.
A day later the story got fancier. According to news published on hunhir.info, local members of the Szebb Jövőért Polgárőrök Egyesülete (Militia for a Better Future) were having an innocent picnic when they were attacked by armed Gypsies. Moreover, these Gypsies also turned on the police. Therefore SZJPE “ordered nationwide mobilization.”
Now let’s see how the police saw the same events. They reported that extremist groups had arrived in the city and practically occupied a part of the town where a lot of Roma lived. The police estimated that there were at least 500 extremists in town and that overnight on August 19 three Jobbik members of parliament also appeared on the scene. There was fear in the town, and the streets were empty with the exception of the Roma-inhabited section of town where Gypsies were waiting for the approaching extremists coming toward their houses through an open field.
What caused this upheaval? According to the police, Saturday night a caller reported that a group of people, maybe 20 or 30 in number, were behaving in a threatening manner while also disturbing the peace. By the time the police arrived there was no one to be found. There was either such an incident or not. Hard to tell. But the Fidesz mayor of Cegléd claimed that the “cause” was artificially exaggerated by the extremists so they could have an opportunity to stage another threatening demonstration against the Gypsies. The mayor also revealed that about three weeks ago there was a rumor that he wanted to move forty Roma families into a mixed Roma/non-Roma section of town. He figures that perhaps that rumor sparked consternation among some people in town. Also just last Sunday the town opened a park that is supposed to symbolize “Hungarian-Roma cooperation” and perhaps the cross that was erected there might not be to the liking of the town’s Jobbik contingent. One thing is sure, claimed the mayor: the fact that three Jobbik MPs immediately showed up indicated that Jobbik was behind the whole ugly affair. The mayor was also convinced that the attack on the Cegléd Roma population was timed to coincide with the national holiday.
As it turns out, there are no great problems with the Roma population of Cegléd. According to the mayor, there are occasional problems with some members of about twenty families but nothing that the local police and the local government cannot handle. Most likely the neo-Nazis are just waiting for a telephone call from someone who reports “Gypsy crime” in his or her locality. That is enough to scout out the place and begin recruitment.
Somehow the Hungarian authorities have to put an end to these organized gangs and their anti-Roma attacks. If they don’t, these incidents will only multiply and get uglier and uglier.