Hungary’s March 15th celebrations proved to be quite eventful. Protesters heckled the prime minister’s speech on the steps of the National Museum, Jobbik accused Orbán of being a pseudo-János Kádár, and László Majtényi urged Hungary’s democratic opposition to not give up fighting for freedom, even when the fight seems to be lost.
Juhász and Orbán
For Péter Juhász, chairman of opposition party Együtt, the morning kicked off with a wreath-laying ceremony at the statue of Sándor Petőfi on March 15th Square. From there, the opposition politician walked up to Astoria, where he and party activists distributed horns and whistles to their supporters.
Juhász, like in earlier demonstrations organized by his party, had invited supporters to attend Orbán’s speech and disrupt it by blowing whistles. However, he was informed last week by police that no whistle distribution would be permitted near the site of the speech. A late court decision Tuesday night sided with the opposition politician, however, thereby permitting the whistle distribution to move forward.
Juhász and his supporters made their way, whistles in hand, down the Múzeum körut towards a security cordon where private security guards inspected pockets and handbags of those seeking to enter the site where Prime Minister Orbán’s speech would be held.
Some protesters were turned away while others had their whistles, horns and signs confiscated, and heated exchanges took place between security guards and citizens insisting it was their right to attend the ceremony.
That Juhász was even permitted entry to the site of the commemoration stood in contrast to Orbán’s October 23rd speech, where Juhász and scores of his supporters were forcefully restricted by private security guards from entering Kossuth Square.
During today’s demonstration, scattered reports from protesters indicated mistreatment on behalf of the private security guards at the event. Verbal threats were reported and one Budapest Beacon journalist witnessed a security guard attempt to stick bubble gum into the hood of a demonstrating woman. When the journalist objected, he was told by security guards that he was lucky they were on the job, otherwise the Fidesz supporters would have “beat his head in.”
During Orbán’s speech, protesters heckled with whistles and horns, making much of the speech inaudible for the audience. Violent and nonviolent scuffles between protesters and Orbán supporters broke out during the speech. Local media reports suggest that police responded to at least six separate incidents at the site of the government’s commemoration rally.
Orbán’s speech largely echoed recent statements emphasizing the importance of defending Hungary from migration, Brussels bureaucrats, and foreign influence.
“We have to stop Brussels! We have to defend our borders! We have to prevent the resettlement [of refugees in Hungary]! We have to make transparent the networks maintained by foreign money! We must defend the [government-imposed public utility price cuts]! And this is why we must continue to keep the power in the hands of national forces!” Orbán said.
Also in attendance was Fidelitas, Fidesz’s youth-wing. The young activists attempted to counter-heckle Péter Juhász with signs that read, “Soros pays, Juhász whistles”.
At the conclusion of Orbán’s speech, the crowd dispersed. Physical altercations continued at and around the area.
Guests from Poland could be seen leaving wearing capes embroidered with the face of Jesus Christ.
A large crowd of about 2,000 Jobbik supporters attended a much more subdued commemoration event at March 15th Square. Greeted by the warm sounds of a brass band playing orchestral marches, the Jobbik supporters seemed to be much more relaxed than their Fidesz counterparts at the rally at the National Museum.
Speeches by Jobbik vice-president Dániel Z. Kárpát, Tiszavasvári mayor Erik Fülöp, and party chairman Gábor Vona all sharply criticized Hungary’s ruling party for selling out the nation to oligarchs and foreign interests.
Speakers attacked Fidesz politicians and oligarchs, including Andy Vajna, Lörinc Mészáros (referred to as “Lörinc Pénztáros”, or “bagman”), Antal Rogán, and Árpád Habony, and Dániel Kárpát referred to those Fidesz-tied figures as “oligarchs, gangsters and mafiosos.”
The Jobbik speakers also made particular mention of Fidesz corruption and the takeover of Hungarian media, and emphasized Jobbik’s ability to oust Fidesz in Hungary’s upcoming 2018 national election.
Vona spoke extensively about Jobbik’s transformation into Hungary’s only true people’s party, explaining that the party would not betray ts base but expand to include nationalistically-minded countrymen.
“Hungary will be successful when the spirit of the people and a national awareness are sealed together,” Vona said. “Now in the time of Viktor Orbán, who operates as some kind of inverted János Kádár, we see the exact opposite. Citing the nation, he closes the people out of national awareness. That is why Hungary is not successful. That is why Hungary is not strengthening. That is why the reforms are not working — despite all kinds of propaganda and billboards,” Vona said, referring specifically to government propaganda slogans.
Majtényi and the liberal opposition
Supporters of Hungary’s so-called democratic, or left-liberal, opposition convened at the Opera House on Andrássy Blvd. shortly after 2pm. One hour later, the crowd of about 2,000 supporters held a peaceful march led by László Majtényi to Kossuth Square.
Opposition politicians and supporters from virtually every left-liberal party could be spotted in the crowd, waving flags and marching alongside one another. A truck led the procession, blasting music from famous artists such as Michael Jackson, Quimby (but performed by Csík Zenekar), Michael Flatley, and Tom Jones.
Majtényi, who challenged incumbent President János Áder but was defeated in a parliamentary vote on Monday, delivered a speech upon arriving to Kossuth Square. According to Majtényi, he was bullied as a child which led him to vow never to become a bully himself, but instead to become a person who would protect those most vulnerable in society.
He also praised nurse-turned civil activist Mária Sándor for all she had done for health care and the Fourth Republic. The crowd cheered and clapped for her.
Turning to Orbán’s speech earlier in the day, Majtényi said that all the prime minister did was complain about Brussels and civilizations he feels pose a threat to Hungary.
Referring to the March 15th celebrations, Majtényi said the lesson of this holiday is that Hungarians should not give up, not even if they believe the issue of freedom is lost.
“In March 1848, in the days just before the outbreak of revolution in Vienna, nobody counted on there being freedom for Hungary, just some hot-headed young people and a very few hot-headed politicians. And what happened? The revolution came out of nowhere and in just a day, the country became free. And the national unity which did not exist until then was formed in a single moment. It all came together. And the entire nation recited the same poem and made the same demands towards the Austrian court. Miracles can happen at any time,” Majtényi said. “As hopeless as a situation can be, everything can change within hours.”
Ben Novak and Justin Spike