Budapest Pride Declared a Success Despite Problems with the Police

We just returned from Europe, where we spent 4 gorgeous days in Budapest. We will run a feature article next month, about the city.

We went specifically for their Gay Pride March.

The Budapest Pride is Hungary’s largest annual LGBT event. It has historically been known under several names, including Budapest Gay Dignity Procession (Hungarian Meleg Méltóság Menet) or simply “happy parade” (Hungarian Meleg Méltóság Menet). The parade has taken place each year since 1997, usually on the first Saturday of July, proceeding along Budapest’s most expansive thoroughfare, Andrássy Avenue, between the City Park (Városliget) and Elizabeth Square (Erzsébet tér). Though much smaller in scale than similar gay pride parades in Western Europe and the Americas,  between a thousand and two thousand marchers typically participate in the Budapest procession. Radical right-wing demonstrators and hooligans have severely disrupted the Budapest gay parades held in 2007 and 2008, casting concerns with the Police in Budapest.

In the past, sometimes anti-gay groups threw eggs, smoke bombs and bottles into the crowds. Several years ago, Gábor Demszky, Budapest’s mayor from the Alliance of Free Democrats party, condemned the violence against the event for which he had expressed unambiguous support. However, three non-governmental organizations accused the government-supported police of doing little to stop the fascists.

I will say this, this year, we saw Police stopping people dressed in all black clothes, asking for ID and detaining them somewhat, from certain areas.

This year, nearly 1500 Police! protected the marchers. It is estimated that 2500-3000 marched.  It was wild to see.  Side streets were being blocked off with fences and there were 20 police here, 30 police there…it looked like  soimething out of a movie, like we were under attack or something.

Police effectively sealed off streets and protected the route. I am surprised, this much money was spent “protecting gays”…perhaps the fear of bad press? if another bad incident was to occur??

We did not want to participate in the entire 3 hour event. We had a previous appointment that day, but planned to join the marchers at the Opera House. Police told us at 4pm, we could join in. At 4:30 Police told us we could NOT join in, and they began “sweeping” the streets, clearing and pushing everyone away from the oncoming parade. – I am told that over the last 2 months, Police kept chaging the plans and even up to the final hour of the march, police kept changing the rules.

We thought perhaps we could cut through the park, and meet up with marchers at the stage at the end.  So we ran over to the ending spot, and found a fence up, with another 30 Police  keeping eveyone back.  As marchers came into the blocked off area,  protesters began gathering around us!  Yelling   DIRTY GAYS, DIRTY GAYS.  We decided it best to leave!

So unfortunately, we got to see nothing.  But we are told the event was successful and was  the biggest turnout they have had yet! 

However, news reports online say there fights and attacks right after the event.

According to the latest information, the attack that took place on 18.6 at Gay and Lesbian Pride in Budapest was well planned and prepared for. Those involved were obviously members of the right-wing extremist organization 64 Burgkomitate Youth Movement (HVIM), which organized and registered the counter-demonstration at Oktogon, as well as the representative of Hungary’s right-wing extremist party Jobbik, Gyula Györyg Zagyva, and Jobbik’s lawyer, Andrea Borbély. The right-wing extremist demonstrators had already had violent confrontations with the police during the parade and attempted to disrupt the parade with homophobic and anti-Semitic chants.

In addition to an attack with an irritant spray, which was carried out by two women, there were verbal and gestured threats, such as non-verbal death threats and Nazi salutes by members of 64 Burgkomitate. In spite of the previous attacks, the right-wing extremists posed as victims, and from then on the police treated the group from Vienna as suspects, obviously due to intervention from the Jobbik representative. Jobbik systematically implements this reversal of guilt as a legal strategy.

I think many of us take our freedom for granted.  Walking around Budapest I always felt safe. And we met many young straight men who were nice to us and offered us directions when lost.

Budapest has a significant gay and lesbian community, whose social status has seen great improvements since the fall of Communism.  While there’s no specific gay neighborhood in Budapest, the city has plenty to offer the gay visitor. Budapest has a wide selection of bars and clubs, restaurants and cafés and baths and saunas, which are gay-friendly or frequented mostly by gays and lesbians. Budapest is one of the most popular cities in Central and Eastern Europe for gays and lesbians. The city is also seeing a revival of the monthly gay parties attracting gays and lesbians from neighboring countries.

One must always be aware of their surroundings and never take things for granted, no matter what city you are in.