“The time is now – Hungary is not a refugee camp”. Under this title some 500 members of Hungary’s radical right-wing youth movement Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom (“Sixty-four County Youth Movement” or HVIM) held an anti-refugee demonstration in Budapest on Friday afternoon in front of the entrance to the Keleti (Eastern) train station.
Nearby, some fifty individuals staged a counter demonstration expressing solidarity with asylum seekers attempting to make their way to EU countries willing to take them in.
In preparation for the demonstration, radical right-wing activists called the Budapest police to around one hundred refugees occupying the Keleti train stration. The police inspected the refugees’ documents. Those who had documents were instructed to go to the designated refugee reception center. Meanwhile the activists shouted at an elderly Hungarian woman who was distributing water to the refugees. She responded by denouncing them as “Nazis”.
“We are going to hold these actions so long as the police are not determined to eliminate this phenomenon,” declared Béla Incze, HVIM vice-president, after Thursday’s anti-refugee action. “We will not allow hordes of migrants to hang out in public areas of Budapest. Obviously we would be the most happy if they would not be able to enter the country. But if they are already here, then they should not be allowed to meander without supervision. The authorities should collect them and take them to designated camps, which naturally they should be locked up. Budapest is ours, and we are going to protect it!”
The following afternoon around 500 people gathered before the main entrance to the Keleti station. Among the crowd were numerous members of HVIM, Jobbik and those bearing flags associated with Hungary’s radical right-wing. Most of the demonstrators were young. They told the Budapest Beacon that asylum seekers are not the biggest problem today in Hungary, and that the situation with regard to health-care, for example, was more important. On the subject of the 175 km fence to be erected along the Serbia border, feelings were mixed. Some believed it unnecessary, others thought the fence should be supplemented with an order to open fire on those attempting to enter the country illegally.
The defense of Hungary is the goal said the master of ceremonies who did not introduce himself but called on representatives of the “leftist” press “not to tell lies”.
Radical right-wing Jobbik city assemblyman from the northern town of Balassagyarmat, Lénárd Dobroci, took the stage to announce that it was “outrageous that they created housing for refugees in the city next to where a primary school is to be built”. Dobroci believes Hungarians are in danger so long as “meaningless liberal laws” prevent them from returning the migrants to where they came from. He believes the danger posed by asylum seekers is as great today as in 1918/1919 when “like now we had neither border guards nor an army.”
Béla Incze began his speech on Friday by first praising the community for “creating order at Keleti” the previous evening. Incze called the government’s consultation on immigration and terrorism a “pointless waste of money”. He said the reason there are so many migrants on the streets of Budapest is because instead of putting them on buses at the border and taking them to refugee camps, “they distribute photocopies to them”. Incze reminded the crowd that “in 2009 those living in a suburb of Strasbourg felt their lives to be in danger” and said that a similar fate awaits Hungary. He warned that refugees would reside in the peripheral districts of the capital city and in the area of the train stations. He repeated what he said on Thursday, namely that they would continue to hold raids “until Hungary is once again Hungary and white insofar as this is possible.” The crowd responded by chanting “Ria, ria, Hungária”. Also heard from time to time were cries of “Dirty Jews” and “Dirty liberals”, as well as “Machine guns!”, as well as the occasional “Sieg hell!”.
The HVIM president, former Jobbik assemblyman György Gyula Zagyva (pictured), told the crowd that something needed to be done to prevent Hungary from becoming Africa and called on counter-demonstrators to “move to Africa if you love them so much”.
Zagyva announced that a series of demonstrations would be held at “key points” throughout the country, including in front of refguee camps as well as at the Serbian-Hungarian border. “The world should know that we don’t want to see them and that they shouldn’t come here” shouted Zagyva into a microphone. He said that thanks to Thursday’s actions there were no refugees at the train station. “White Hungary” chanted the crowd.
“We are going to the borders with buses. We will turn back the Africans if the forces of order prove incapable of doing so,” said Zagyva. The HVIM president concluded his speech by saying that they were planning “National salvation work” and the struggle had only just begun. They had already cleansed the area of Keleti station of the “migrating hordes” and the country was next in line, to be followed by Europe.
“You can do something with your free time other than hate,” was the title of the counter demonstration held in the nearby Baross square.
“A demonstration for peaceful solidarity with the migrants, resistance to the persecution organized by the neo-Nazi HVIM organization. We want to call attention to the civil organizations organizing via the internet to help refugees,” wrote the counter-demonstration organizers.
No speeches were given. Prior to the start of the demonstration Beáta Eszes (pictured), one of the spiritual rectors of the counter-demonstration, held a short press conference. Among other things she pointed out that among the HVIM demonstrators were those who expressed solidarity with Arabs oppressed by Israel were now using strongly islamphobic expressions in their opposition to refugees.
Counter-demonstrators held banners proclaiming “HVIM are the nodding executors of Orbán’s billboard campaign”, “Those who continuously fear will never be free”, “My parents were made to fear foreigners. There is life after the Kádár epoch and after xenophobia as well!”, “You can do something else with your free time other than hate!”, “The 1956 refugees are ashamed of those fomenting hatred today!”, “Half a million Hungarians work as migrants abroad, and you fear migrants?”, “So long as you hate, we will help!”.
Not a single politician could be found among the counter-demonstrators.
In response to why the anti-Nazi demonstration had attracted so few supporters in comparison to what it would have drawn in Germany, Eszes told the Beacon “this is fundamentally the product of the state of Hungary’s culture of remembrance.”
She pointed out that shortly after the fall of communism Hungary reburied the remains of Admiral Miklós Horthy, “the party most responsible for genocide, the governor who was in the highest position of power, and whose authority even exceeded that of today’s President of the Republic.” She believes that after such a “retrograde step” in which nearly the entire Antall government participated, “one cannot really expect Hungarian society to recognize the need to resist persecution”.
She points out that Hungarian citizens were among the victims of the Holocaust, and that so long as Hungarians are not forced to confront this fact, “how do we think the views of society could be cleansed to the deepest level?”
“No change has taken place in their heads. While in Germany they teach democracy and tolerance from kindergarten on, in Hungary this is not the case” says the activist. She points out that, whereas in Germany migrants and physically handicapped children study alongside others, “this is not the case in Hungary where nationalism is continuously present.” Furthermore, she pointed out that nationalism is not the exclusive preserve of Fidesz and radical right-wing Jobbik parties and their supporters, but among certain members of the left-liberal political establishment as well.