The first day we toured around Budapest, before we met up with our friends, was the day after we had toured Auschwitz. We were walking through the Imre Nagy memorial park (a freedom fighter from the 1956 anti-Communist Hungarian uprising). And there were a few punky-looking guys horsing around. I didn’t think much of this until one jumped in front of me, did a Nazi salute and said ZIG HEIL! I was horrified; these weren’t run-of-the-mill punks, but full-on neo-nazi/fascists. Unfortunately, they weren’t the last ones we would see in Budapest.
We got a notice at our hotel saying that the pride parade was the following day. YAY! We both like a party, so what luck to stumble upon that during our trip.
Except that the next sentence said they anticipated a counter-rally of intolerant folks, and the police would be called in to keep the peace. They recommended that we go across the river to see more distant sites that day, and stay out of the area to ‘avoid the commotion’ (read: violence.) We did go over to the other side of the river to see the castle and came back at the end of the parade. The police were packing up, and any evidence of parade or levity were gone.
What we did find was a lingering, vibrating current of anger and violence that was very unsettling. We were looking for a place to eat and kept hearing shouting and occasionally seeing pairs or small groups of young men running around. Some of these guys seemed to be hunting – there isn’t really another way to describe it. Very predatory, scanning faces and people and looking for someone to fight with. We were all glad they skimmed over us… although it makes me really mad that this level of intolerance and intimidation is changing limiting people’s freedom and expression. The obvious intent of this kind of bullying is to control people’s behaviour. That is terrorism, and that made me angry at the neo-nazis and sad for everyone else that gets intimidated by them (also a little shameful that I didn’t give them a piece of my mind, although common sense thankfully dictated a more conservative approach – blog activism!) I am glad the government sent in the police and the military to protect the paraders, but a bit bummed that the only way to open the skinhead’s mind seems to be with a baton.