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An extreme right to protest

July 30th, 2011

A radical right-wing organization has announced that it will stage a protest in the middle of the Sziget (Island) Rock Festival in Budapest in early August. Commentators across the political spectrum find the plan outrageous, while human rights activists defend the right of racist and nationalist groups to protest.

I am checking the dates of national holidays in my calendar to decide which venue and which annual state celebration I should book my demonstration for”, writes Attila Szabó Palócz in the right-wing Magyar Hírlap in an ironic comment on the paralysis of the authorities in the face of a provocation by a marginal but very active far right group.

The Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement (the name refers to the number of counties in ‘historical Hungary’, before it was dismantled in 1920 at the Treaty of Trianon) registered a demonstration against increasing fuel prices well in advance, earlier this year. The protest is due to take place during the annual Island Festival, which attracts 300,000 to 400,000 visitors from Hungary and abroad to Óbuda Island on the Danube in Budapest. As the irredentist organization, which is highly critical of Western mass culture, registered their demonstration in January, prior to the signing of the agreement between the organizers of the festival and the local council that owns the festival venue, and human rights activists say they cannot be denied the right to protest.

Népszabadság reports that, according to the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ),  banning the demonstration would violate the right of assembly. According to TASZ, the police should guarantee the safety of both the protesters and Festival visitors. Károly Gerendai, the head of the Festival, underlines that no one without a ticket will be allowed to enter the festival venue. Festival organizers fear violent clashes between “antifascist” visitors and extremist demonstrators.

Politicians and pundits across the political spectrum find it outrageous that a radical right-wing organization has the right to protest within an area that has been rented by a cultural festival. The mayor of the district has offered an alternative venue to the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement to organise their action.

Szabó Palócz notes that “a hundred people want to disrupt and ruin the party of three hundred thousand.” The incident may even harm the financial interests of the district and local small entrepreneurs, if visitors to the Island Festival are frightened away by the prospect of an extreme right-wing demonstration.

Szabó Palócz also finds it a clear sign of “extreme bigotry” that human right activists side with right-wing extremists who want to disturb a festival. In conclusion, Szabó Palócz urges the authorities to review their January decision, and ban the planned demonstration.

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