Government supporters assault protesters at official 1956 memorial event

October 25, 2016

A protestor shortly after being doused.
A protester shortly after being resisted.

Confrontation between demonstrators intent on heckling Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Fidesz supporters progressively mounted Sunday afternoon and resulted in several reported instances of physical assault in addition to the customary name-calling.

Together (Együtt) party politicians Viktor Szigetvári and Péter Juhász held a press conference at 2 pm by the statue of US television character Colombo. At the previous Sunday’s “They’re stealing our freedom” protest, Juhász had called on opposition supporters to heckle the prime minister’s speech at the official commemoration of the start of the 1956 uprising the following Sunday.  Immediately after the press conference a woman cursed them in passing.  She was not willing to tell the Beacon why she was upset with the two opposition figures.

The situation was far more tense at the Vértanúk square where thousands of activists led by civil and political activist Gábor “Tuareg” Szabó blew whistles on the far side of the police cordon and chanted “Orbán, scram!”, “Prison for you!” and “Dictator!”, to which the Fidesz camp replied with a series of epithets, of which “communist rats” was the only one not involving profanity.

Our correspondent noticed a father and son in the crowd wearing pins that would seem to profess contrarian political views. “In 2002 someone asked me ‘which Hungary do you belong to?’ to which I responded ‘Why, are there two?’,” said the father. “I am just as Hungarian as Fidesz supporters. We mustn’t allow them to appropriate the national symbol.”

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Before 3 pm only a few dozen activists were blowing whistles. But once the celebration started, and especially during Orbán’s speech, several hundred protesters started blowing whistles and horns. Several carried megaphones with a loud siren-like sound. Some of the activists could be spotted on balconies overlooking the memorial statue to 1956 prime minister Imre Nagy.

The protesters were blocked from entering Kossuth square outside Parliament by a line of private security guards, who inspected the bags of those entering the square. Later they formed a kind of police cordon two rows deep and prevented anyone from entering or leaving. However, the cacophony reached Kossuth square, and prevented those standing in front of the Agricultural ministry from hearing what the prime minister was saying.

“There is no democracy here.  These people should be sent to jail!” said one man dressed in an orange jacket referring to the whistle-blowing activists. “In Mexico or Argentina they would have locked them up by now,” said another. “Die, you communist ____s!” said a third Fidesz supporter to a young man who smuggled his whistle into Kossuth square and started blowing it in the crowd. A lot of people started pushing the young man, who was escorted away by security guards.

Numerous similar confrontations took place elsewhere. There was one involving a telephone being ripped from somebody’s hand, and another where people were shouting toe-to-toe. There were also reported instances of physical assault. Often the whistle-blowers were escorted away by security guards, but there were times when policemen dressed as civilians tried to calm things down.

“Inside (Parliament) they are fooling around, outside they are putting on a show,” said an older woman who said neither the spectacle staged by the government nor the whistling was worthy of the memorial event. The jeering reached its peak during Orbán’s speech. At that time a number of small groups produced their whistles and starting whistling in front of the south wing of the Ministry of Agriculture, leaving upon the completion of the speech. In the Vértanúk square protesters continued to make noise well after the end of Orbán’s speech, to the disapproving stares of those leaving the event. “We should beat them now because the event is over,” said one mustached individual to his partner.  One man dressed in an old-fashioned Hungarian outfit and hat accused a group of protesters gathered in front of the Parliament café as being “traitors.”  However, the police cordon prevented the two sides from clashing.

One person who gave his name as Árpád criticized the Civil Opposition roundtable activists. In his opinion, Hungary has an especially good government. “It unites the majority while providing room for other opinions as well. Behind us is the proof,” said Árpad, pointing to the protesters. “The government is showing the country the direction that leads to the future. I think this is worthy of support.”

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New Life System Change Party (FGRP) chairman Tímea Blazovich appeared in the crowd holding a giant flag. “Our party is now two years old.  No party — not Fidesz, not Jobbik — managed to accomplish as much in so little time as we have,” she told the Beacon, adding that hers is the party of  “the oppressed people” and “there are no retro politicians among us.” Blazovich said she had wanted to enter the Kossuth square and stand in front of the stage, but “they did not let me in, because for that you need an armband. If Viktor Orbán is such a good prime minister, then he has nothing to fear.” She believed that the reason they did not allow her to enter was because in Hungary “there is dictatorship and not democracy.”

The FGRP chairman has an equally low opinion of the mainstream opposition. “We don’t want any old, discredited politicians.  They’ve already shown us what they are capable of.  We’ve had enough of the past 25 years. We want a new life.  We want to put an end to poverty,” she said.

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Blazovich, who intends to run for Parliament in 2018, said FGRP activists are never admitted to Fidesz events. She told the Beacon that her supporters, too, had come to jeer the prime minister but the police did not permit them. It turns out they showed up with the whistles already in their mouths. “If there is democracy then why can’t we do this?” asked the party chairman.

During Orbán’s speech a number of government supporters, deciding they had had enough, attacked a number of protesters. But that did not prevent the whistling both during Orbán’s speech and the Polish President’s speech, as well.

“Are these dirty traitors allowed to do anything they want?” replied one of the people after we asked why he had hit a whistler. “This is a ragtag group of traitors. In 1956 I was here in this square,” he said before denouncing their mothers as whores.

A number of people carrying read and white striped Árpád flags could ask be seen among the demonstrators.
A number of people carrying red and white striped Árpád flags could be seen among the demonstrators.

“For sure it could be better but this is the best government since the system change,” Mrs. Ilona Bede told the Beacon. In her opinion, whistling is not the answer because “this only turns the mood of the crowd against you. This government has done the most for families and it decreased taxes, and most importantly we escaped the debt crisis.”

Mrs. Ilona Bede
Mrs. Ilona Bede

“Are you a communist animal?” we asked one heckler, a young man named Levente Kölcsey.  He replied:

“I would like a free Hungary where it is possible to express one’s opinion, work in the civil sector, where power is not in the hands of the political elite but in that of the people. I would like to live in peace and love. I do not want to hate but rather to live by the principles put forth by Jesus Christ.” It turned out that he was there completely independent of Péter Juhász or Gábor Szabó.

“It is completely unnecessary to listen to a deceitful speech given by a deceitful person,” he continued, adding that he had been spat on.  “We have to obstruct him as much as we can.”

Levente Kölcsey
Levente Kölcsey

“I have an opinion and I wanted to express it,” said Nora Vargha, one of three whistlers sitting on the ground. Vargha denied that she is living off money provided by American-Hungarian philanthropist George Soros: “I hate the government for free.”

Vargha also denied that she does drugs, as accused by her Fidesz detractors. When asked whether blowing whistles during the prime minister’s speech isn’t too radical a method of expressing one’s opinion, she said: “I don’t know if we have much of a choice in terms of our methods. Applause is also a form of expressing opinion, as is crying ‘long live,’ as well as whistling. Everyone  can express their opinion according to their temperament and taste.  Whoever wants to clap or cry ‘long live’ can do so loudly.  I want to whistle.”

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In response to our question, Vargha said she is not a member of Együtt but her actions were based on their idea of whistling.

She said her hair had been pulled, she had been spat on, dragged to the ground, punched and kicked by those around her who did not agree with her actions. When asked whether she would file a complaint, she answered:

“I think I knew why I was coming here. I accepted the fact that I would provoke the anger of some people to such a degree that they would do this to me.” She said the event organizers had sent toughs to rough up demonstrators.

A government supporter who overheard the conversation added: “Whistling is not the same as clapping because it bothers the 100,000-strong crowd that wishes to celebrate. The whistlers are bothering the crowd, not Viktor Orbán but the crowd.” The supporter was not willing to give her name.