Police clashed with protesters at Budapest’s Városliget (City Park) Tuesday as preparations were made to transplant three large trees, part of a project to transform the park into a museum quarter. Several activists were issued citations for damaging a mobile cordon surrounding the work area.
The protesters, part of the Ligetvédők (Park Protectors) activist group, attempted to enter the work area by breaking through the fence as police and security held them back from inside the cordon. Several activists chained themselves to machinery in an attempt to halt the transplantation of the trees. One such activist’s arms were injured as police and firemen removed them from a metal pipe she’d locked them into. The woman was taken into custody.
The Ligetvédők argue that the two sycamore trees and one oak tree are too large and too old to be transplanted safely, and their removal would cause their deaths. A representative of Politics Can Be Different (LMP) present on the scene said that only trees with a maximum trunk diameter of 35 centimeters can be transplanted safely, and promised to look into filing a complaint against Városliget Zrt. – the company overseeing the construction project – for environmental damage, a crime.
According to an on-site report from HirTV, police used tear gas against the protesters. However, Városliget Zrt. denied this and suggested that a smoke bomb set off by one of the protesters might have been confused for tear gas.
The Liget Budapest Project plans include the reconstruction of the Transportation Museum, the construction of a Hungarian House of Music, and the relocation of the National Gallery and Museum of Ethnography into the park. Opponents of the project argue that such construction would lessen the value of Europe’s oldest public park and reduce the green space. The project has moved forward without any consultation with Budapest residents, more than 80 percent of whom do not want new buildings constructed in the area of the park according to polls.
The Ligetvédők have occupied areas of the park in opposition to the project for over a year.
Photos and video by Lili Bayer.