The temporary headquarters of a civil group endeavoring to protect Budapest’s City Park was besieged by police Wednesday morning, reported Hungarian news website hvg.hu. Around 7 am, hundreds of policemen appeared at the empty building occupied by Ligetvédők (Park Protectors) and formed a human wall around the construction site.
The group entered the run-down building illegally in the middle of June and planned to use it to organize conferences about the future of the park, plus cultural and community events. They have been camping and demonstrating there ever since.
As the building is within a fenced area and is a public space, the protesters were within their rights to assemble. However, since the park has been turned over to Városliget Ingatlanfejlesztő Zrt., the publicly owned but privately run development authority set up by the government to develop the city’s oldest public park, the protesters could be evicted from the building with the countersignature of a municipal clerk.
Start of demolition
The company issued a statement Wednesday morning, announcing the start of demolition works. They said the municipal clerk has authorized the company to take over the area. (Demolition was supposed to start months ago.) Within an hour more than 200 policemen appeared at the scene and started emptying the building. The majority of activists left the place, but a few remained and chained themselves to the fence or huge concrete blocks, even climbing onto the rooftop, according to Index.hu.
After 10 am the police started cutting their chains and taking them away one by one. Twelve demonstrators were escorted outside and, although none of them were taken away, some were handcuffed during the action. Among them was László Moldován, member of the municipal council in Budapest’s 7th district.
Civilians then organized a sitting strike just outside the fence. Sometime before noon, around 70 private security guards wearing hardhats arrived from the Museum of Transport to secure the arriving bulldozers. A few demonstrators laid down in front of the trucks. They were taken away by police, some with their bicycles.
Police later confirmed that legal proceedings had been initiated against three activists, one of whom allegedly attacked a policeman.
Zugló mayor Gergely Karácsony also visited the scene, telling online news portal hvg.hu that, while the action of authorities was legal, the municipal clerk’s ruling only arrived half an hour before it started, giving activists no time to leave peacefully.
Fidesz also issued a statement saying the whole demonstration is “political hysteria”.
“The opposition can only throw tantrums, but it cannot build anything,” they added.
Not the first time
Last week, similar chaos ensued at the Museum of Transport when activists chained themselves to the building in protest against plans to transform the park. Many of them were taken away by police, including opposition politicians.
Ligetvédők announced a demonstration to be held at the park later on Wednesday.