Civil activist Márton Gulyás was arrested Monday night after allegedly throwing a bottle filled with paint at the Presidential Palace, but missing and getting paint on a police officer instead. Gulyás was one of hundreds of demonstrators who attended a spontaneous protest following President János Áder’s signing into law of lex CEU.
Media reports indicate Gulyás may be held for up to three days, meaning he must be released no later than Thursday night.
Hours after the protest, police showed up at the residence of Gergely Varga, an acquaintance of Gulyás also implicated in the alleged paint-throwing incident. According to Varga’s girlfriend, Maria Koosh, police entered their home and whisked Varga away after promising that he would return home within hours. She hasn’t heard from him since. This is not the first time police have popped up at the private residences of protesters in recent days.
Koosh, a native of Georgia, recounted the interaction with the police in an interview published by 444.hu. (The interview is English with Hungarian subtitles.)
On Tuesday evening, Gulyás supporters organized a demonstration at the jail where the activist is being held. Minor non-violent scuffles took place but no serious fighting was reported. About 150 people showed up to protest Gulyás’ arrest, including Koosh, who was also there to find out what happened to her boyfriend.
Protesters expressed outrage over Gulyás’ arrest. As one person on the scene told the Beacon: “Why should someone be arrested and held in custody for three days just for getting paint on a police officer?”
On Wednesday, activist-turned Együtt party chairman Péter Juhász arrived at the jail where Gulyás is being held. He and fellow party members pelted the main gate with dozens of eggs. The egging was broadcast live by Juhász on Facebook.
According to Juhász, he decided to egg the jail gates because a Hungarian court once ruled that throwing eggs is a legitimate way to express one’s opinion. The case to which Juhász referred took place years ago, when protesters threw eggs at Budapest’s Pride march attendees.
The politician used the occasion to encourage everyone to continue protesting against Prime Minister Orbán’s crackdown on academic freedom and civil society.
When police arrived at the jail, Juhász handed over the camera to Balázs Berkecz, a member of Együtt’s executive board. As Juhász spoke to the police, Berkecz used the occasion to address hostile and inflammatory statements recently made by Fidesz co-founder and pro-government apologist Zsolt Bayer.
On Tuesday, Bayer published a piece on his blog attacking protesters and threatening violence against them.
“We can confirm that within a very short deadline, we too will take to the streets in defense all that is important and holy to us. And we will be angry,” Bayer wrote. “So for a little while you can still rage on the streets, you can try to intrude into Parliament, the ministries, Fidesz party headquarters, the President’s office, you can go up against the police or attack journalists – for the time being. But then not. Then you will experience what it means to be persecuted and threatened. I tell you: we too are very angry. Do you understand?”
As Juhász spoke to the police, Berkecz took over the live feed and said,
I’ll speak about Mr Zsolt Bayer while [Juhász] deals with the police. The situation is this: Mr Bayer…threatened civil society and those who share views similar to those espoused by the democratic opposition. [Bayer] said that if the protests continue, like the one we see here today, then we all have reason to be afraid. I think Zsolt Bayer, who has personally shown me that he is a cowardly prick, is obviously talking nonsense when he threatens us. tweet
What’s in store for Gulyás?
Gulyás is currently on probation for ripping the sign off the National Election Office’s exterior wall last year after a group of bald-headed goons tied to Fidesz prevented opposition politicians from submitting a referendum question on the government’s wildly unpopular Sunday store closure law. The goons were never apprehended by police and, despite being identified in the media, the investigation against them was closed.
If Gulyás is convicted of a crime for getting paint on the police officer, he may serve time in jail. We’ll report on his story as it unfolds.