Demonstrators protest government scare tactics under watchful gaze of military police

September 19, 2017

Photo: The Budapest Beacon

A crowd of about 200 Hungarians gathered Monday evening in front of the Constitution Protection Office (Alkotmányvédelmi Hivatal), Hungary’s civilian internal security intelligence agency, in solidarity with three activists who were identified as alleged threats during last week’s National Security Committee meeting.

The protest was called by activist Péter Horgas, a set designer by profession who is also an outspoken critic of the Fidesz government.

National Security Committee deputy chairman and Fidesz Vice-President Szilárd Németh said last week that Hungary’s secret services consider pre-election street riots a “serious risk,” and three opposition activists – Gábor Vágó, Árpád Schilling and Márton Gulyás – had been named specifically during a closed committee hearing.

“If the services didn’t give this report, then the vice-president [of Fidesz] lied,” Horgas told the crowd. “Everyone who works at this building took an oath to a rule-of-law Constitution. They know well what is legal and what is not,” he added.

The three named activists did not speak at the demonstration. Besides Horgas, all speakers at the protest were women, a fact Horgas emphasized. Speakers included Katalin from the Tanitanék (I Would Teach) teachers’ movement and writer Andrea Tompa.

“We stand in solidarity with our three countrymen, and honestly trust in the independence of the security services, and that they are in fact able to protect us from provocation and every threat, which could pose a risk to the physical well-being of Hungarians,” read a petition issued ahead of the protest.

The crowd that assembled on Monday comprised primarily of older Hungarians but included young activists and a few families with children.

Security around the protest was notably much higher than at other demonstrations of a few hundred people. Besides police personnel, there were armed military police standing across the street from the stage. Some security personnel in civilian clothing stood out in the crowd.