Eight police officers reportedly formed a police line around a group conducting a signature collection campaign on Tuesday, preventing potential signatories from approaching. Opposition party Együtt (Together) was collecting the signatures at the Határ avenue underpass as part of a campaign to force a referendum on Budapest’s 2024 Summer Olympics bid.
According to a Facebook post from Együtt party volunteers, three officers initially appeared and began questioning two women who were illegally selling items in the underpass. After taking the women’s information, an additional five officers appeared and formed a wall around the signature collection stand, barring access to passers-by for around an hour. One of the volunteers asked an officer whether they had been sent to harass the activists, to which the officer responded that he could not deny it.
Passers-by who wanted to sign the petition asked the officers why they were blocking the way to the signature stand, and one of the activists requested that the police move aside, which they reportedly did for a couple of minutes before reforming in front of the stand. When the activists began packing to leave, the eight officers reportedly left the underpass immediately, leaving the two women who had been questioned earlier to continue selling their items.
The National Police released a statement on Wednesday morning denying that officers had formed a police line around the collection point, saying that only two of the uniformed people visible in the Facebook post photographs were police, therefore “the allegation that a police line was formed around the signature collection stand does not correspond to reality.”