Heavy police security ensured that the annual Budapest Pride parade passed off peacefully on Saturday, with several thousand participants marching from Heroes’ Square to Olympia Park on the Danube riverside – a record attendance according to the organisers. However, an alleged attack on three homeward-bound participants by far-right thugs has prompted a police investigation and expressions of concern from civil rights ombudsman Máté Szabó.
The small liberal party SZEMA said three of its members were assaulted near Nyugati railway station shortly after the official end of the event. According to a statement, some 30 “uniformed neo-Nazis” beat up their targets while shouting “Gypsy faggots”. SZEMA demanded an explanation from police and the Interior Ministry after it alleged that the three victims were subsequently subject to ID checks while the perpetrators were allowed to leave the scene.
Police responded on Sunday that the attackers had already gone when the victims approached police to complain about the assault. The following day, however, an investigation was launched into an attack carried out against “members of a community” by a group of unidentified perpetrators.
According to a Monday statement on the national police website, the three victims were interviewed over the weekend and had backed up their allegations with medical reports from outpatient clinics. One of the men, media later reported, was the headmaster of a grammar school.
Witnesses, especially those who may have photographic or video evidence, have been asked to come forward.
Ombudsman Szabó noted on Tuesday that to ensure the right to free assembly, police have a duty to ensure the safe passage of participants as they disperse, not only to secure the event itself. Police had informed him that the operation to keep an estimated 300 anti-gay protesters away from the 4,000 participants in the march had been successful, but that a number of arrests were made elsewhere in the capital.
Organisers put the number of participants at 8,000 and said the 18th annual march was the largest Budapest Pride event to date.
As in recent years, the unbroken fencing that lined the route meant that only those who began on Heroes’ Square were able to join the march.
Among the speakers at a “civil picnic” in Olympia Park was Austrian Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek. Domestic politicians from the opposition Socialist Party, green LMP and Dialogue for Hungary were among the participants.
Representatives of several embassies took part, with 18 of them having previously endorsed the event.
The Christian Democrats, junior partner in the ruling coalition, issued a statement describing Budapest Pride as a “parade of political opportunists”.
The party called on participants not to provoke people, families and communities who were not “with them”. The event actually hinders the acceptance of homosexuality by bringing sexual orientation out into the open rather than keeping it where it belongs “inside the bedroom walls”, the party said.
The extreme-right Jobbik party held a rally on Érzsébet tér (square), ostensibly celebrating “camaraderie”. The party had earlier said it would never have allowed the event to go ahead under a Jobbik government. In an internal memo obtained by news website index.hu, the party’s Budapest leadership banned members who wanted to “attend” the “poofter parade” in a private capacity from wearing party insignia.