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Hungarian Protesters Occupy Bridge, Three Students Arrested

Three protesters were arrested Wednesday night when students occupied a Budapest bridge. The grassroots student union HaHa confirmed [hu] they were students moderating a forum held on the Chain Bridge. Dozens of protesters waited at a Budapest police department for their release until 2 AM on Thursday. The students were released after a civil infraction proceeding, receiving a formal warning.

On Wednesday, high school and university students protested in Hungary against the cut-backs in higher education admission quotas; at many high schools, students held sit-in strikes, observed minutes of silence and protested for their future. X Communications Centre (XKK) published [hu] a map and list of the events; below is a screenshot:

The day of the protests in Budapest ended with two student events’ participants marching to the Chain Bridge, where they held a forum, inviting [hu] the Minister of Human Resources and the Prime Minister to guarantee that the students’ demands are met. When the protesters started to leave the bridge the police accompanying the march arrested [hu] three students who had earlier moderated the conversations with megaphones.

A student using a megaphone while shouting slogans at a protest in Budapest on Wednesday. Photo by Peter Nemeth, copyright © Demotix (19/12/2012).

Although they were released a few hours later many netizens pointed at the ‘fun fact’ that the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had once also been arrested for fighting for democratic rights at the time of Hungary's transition to democracy. One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary, also known as Milla, shared [hu] this meme using a photo of Orbán being arrested in 1988 and the photo of one of the students arrested now:

The Hungarian government seemed to be willing to comply with the students’ demands, as on Wednesday at noon it was announced that the 2013 undergraduate admission quota for tuition-free higher education would be set back to 55,000 students [hu] instead of the 10,480 published before the protests. Students made clear on many platforms that they were aware of the need to roll out tuition fees in the Hungarian higher education, but they stressed that the fast-pace decision-making was not professional and the restructuring of Hungarian higher education needed a thorough preparation.

HaHa demanded [hu] that the government make decisions with the involvement of all stakeholders and come up with a better financial plan to ensure the sustainability of universities after the quotas are set back to a higher level.

A government spokesman said on Wednesday that the admission point requirements would be published before Christmas [hu]. Admission points are calculated for each high school student on the basis of their grades, final exams and other obtained qualifications. On Thursday afternoon, however, the Ministry of Human Resources announced [hu] they wouldn't publish the requirements this year. Adult education, applied economic studies, communication and media studies, human resources studies, international economics and law are still not the government's favorites; there would be no tuition-free slots [hu] allocated for them.

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