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Hungary: Budapest Gay Pride Parade Protected

The 14th Budapest Pride Parade was held last Saturday. The parade was one of the closing events of the LGBT film and culture festival which began on Aug. 30. Because of the violent attacks that took place in 2007 and 2008, the 14th Pride March was under increased police protection.

Eva S. Balogh of Hungarian Spectrum wrote about the tense atmosphere preceding the closing event:

[...] Within a few days the atmosphere became sufficiently tense that a statement was released by the embassies of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The statement read in part: “we express our support for and solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Hungary. We support the right of these communities to use this traditional occasion to march together peacefully and lawfully, in order to express their desire to end the silence surrounding the specific issues that affect them.” The statement ended with these words: “Our governments’ policies in this area are in accordance with the principles set out in the Joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity delivered at the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December, 2008.” To find among these thirteen the Czech Republic and Slovenia is really a slap in the face and shows how low Hungary has sunk even in the region. Today Mátyás Eörsi (SZDSZ) expressed his gratitude for the support of these countries. In addition Whoopi Goldberg, who knows and loves Hungary dearly ever since she spent some time there while filming and who jokingly said that she wouldn't mind being the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, was so worried about the Hungarian situation that she sent a message to Hungary via YouTube. [...]

Here is Whoopi Goldberg's YouTube address:

Saturday gave a lot of work to the Hungarian police since that was also the day when Hungary played against Sweden in a World Cup qualifying football game. IndymediaCalling posted this report:

[...] The only positive thing about 2008 Pride was high attention of the media and increased security (Not all cops are bastards after all) this year. Not only Andrassy avenue, where the Parade took place this year, but also parallel streets were closed and surrounded by fences. Basically, a big part of central Budapest including metro was closed.[...] Crowds of people were to be observed outside the fences, apparently not as many as previous year. Moreover, this day was a football match between Hungary and Sweden and most probably most hooligans were already at the stadium by the end of the Parade. The Parade participants turned out to be hard nuts for those willing to attack them, as police was escorting them even after the end of the Parade at Deak sq. and Blaha Lujza sq., as all the participants were recommended to go to Blaha Lujza by metro.

Hungarian Spectrum also had a report on the march. Former prime minister of Hungary, Ferenc Gyurcsány, participated, too, but he left the parade with his wife before the end of the event through a station of the yellow metro line:

[...] There were about 1,000 participants including former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and his wife; Tamás Bauer, former SZDSZ member of parliament; Mátyás Eörsi, SZDSZ MP; Péter Kende, writer; and András Léderer, former president of SZDSZ's New Generation. In addition there were representatives of Amnesty International, Democratic Charta, and other civic organizations. This was the first public appearance of the former prime minister since his resignation in March. [...] I'm not sure how the police managed to keep the anti-gay groups outside the cordon but they were successful although trouble started even before the parade began. It was a relatively small group at Hősök tere but loud enough. First they used all sorts of four-letter words against gays and Jews, and when they discovered Gyurcsány in the crowd they had a few kind words for him as well. [...]

Thanks to the increased and extended protection of the police, the marchers could enjoy the parade without facing the groups of counter-demonstrators.

Here are links to two video reports from the parade: in the first one, people talk (HUN, ENG) about why it's important to participate in events like this, while the second one – titled “100% hetero” – features the police and the anti-gay crowd.

IndymediaCalling concluded that the parade of 2009 as a mostly peaceful event:

[...] To the Pride 2009 itself: there were a number of groups and individual people from both Hungary and abroad. The opening speeches were delivered by Juris Lavrikovs, Paata Sabelashvili (ILGA Europe) who welcomed the participants and shared their thoughts of the importance of the Pride. There were two cars with sound systems, a group of people carrying a rainbow flag, and a number of smaller groups including Amnesty-Hungary (the yellow group) and the pink-black bloc.

Overall, it was just another good opportunity for queer people to claim for their right for equality and for their supporters to express their solidarity. Hopefully, the peacefulness of Pride Parade 2009 will become a good tradition and the tolerance in Hungarian society to queer people will grow to the level that no fences will be needed in the future. [...]

The vigilant blogger of Hungarian Spectrum reported on the riots around the protected pride march and the closing party later at Corvintető (“Corvin Rooftop”), at Blaha Lujza Square:

[...] However, farther down the road there were a few hundred demonstrators who tried to break through the cordon at Octogon. Again, they didn't succeed. The participants apparently weren't even aware of the upheaval outside the cordoned off area. By 4:30 about 300-400 people gathered at Deák tér where they attacked the police, and here the police had to use tear gas. The crowd began to disperse but unfortunately they then lingered in neighboring streets, including Dohány utca where the famous Budapest synagogue is situated. One can imagine what happened afterward. They called the Jews all sorts of names and tore down posters advertising the Jewish Summer Festival. All this was done while these savages were carrying Hungarian flags. How patriotic. Not far from Dohány utca there is the Astoria Hotel where another group gathered that began going along Rákóczi út to Corvin Department Store whose flat roof is used for all sorts of parties. Apparently some of the gays were planning to hold a party there. While about 150 people were gathering in front of the department store battling with the police, on Deák tér about 200 people were throwing bottles and rocks at the police and broke the windows of at least one car. Altogether 11 people were arrested. Some of these “gentlemen” apparently beat a young woman who wore a T-shirt identifying her as a participant in the parade. She was waiting for the street car when three men appeared from the underground passage in front of Astoria and, without saying a word, began to beat her. Because of the blows the woman fell on the ground. So, for good measure they kicked her several times. She suffered head and arm injuries. [...]

According to The Budapest Times police have initiated legal proceedings against 17 people for violence against officers, and altogether 41 people were detained for various reasons including disobeying police, endangering public safety and carrying explosive materials in various parts of the city. The gay march, attended by some 1,500 people and secured by iron fences and a large number of police, ended without major incidents.

And Sweden defeated Hungary. 2:1.

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