Heavy Police Presence Keeps Budapest Pride Violence (And Spectator) Free

By L. K. Regan

Budapest's annual Gay Pride Parade has been marked by violence in recent years, and organizers for this year were concerned that the pattern would be repeated, if not escalated. So it was with great relief that the gay-friendly community saw Budapest Pride go off apparently without a hitch this year—though the price of safety was a heavy police presence and an absence of spectators.

Budapest's 2007 and 2008 Pride parades were attacked by counter-demonstrators throwing rocks, bottles, firecrackers and homemade explosives at the participants and intervening police. The pattern had, furthermore, appeared to be escalating, with the 2008 protests leading to at least 58 arrests and as many as 10 injuries. Police had to disperse the protesters with tear gas and water cannons, and even so some of those protesters went on to attack parade participants. Coming down to this year's event there was increasing concern about an even worse outcome, particularly given internet warnings of extremist violence. In the run-up to the event, foreign embassies, human rights groups, and even celebrities voiced their support for Budapest's gay community, and asked for an end to violence. Whoopi Goldberg recorded a personal plea, widely circulated on the internet, accompanied by Hungarian subtitles:

Hungarian authorities originally planned to cancel the Pride parade in light of these issues, but relented after the mayor of Budapest and other politicians spoke out. In the end, Budapest police arranged for heavy security for the march, and moved both well-wishers and protesters away from the parade route, to distances of no less than a block. A Youtube video shows the orderly and generally happy parade, woven through with periodic glimpses of heavily armed riot police marching in formation:

Some 2,000 people appear to have participated in this year's parade, making it the largest yet in Budapest. Though the parade route itself appears to have been without violence, some reports surfaced of right-wing rioters invading the city's old Jewish quarter and staging an anti-gay and anti-Jewish riot. While it is as yet unclear whether the motivation for this violence was primarily homophobic or anti-Semitic, its occurrence speaks to the generally increasing trend toward xenophobic nationalism in eastern Europe.