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Avas demonstrations draw little attention

October 20th, 2012

As Jobbik’s anti-Roma demonstration in Miskolc and the counter-demonstrations organized by DK and Roma activists passed peacefully, commentators on the left mostly expressed relief while right-wing media outlets passed over the event in silence.

On October 17 three demonstrations took place in Miskolc, a regional centre in North-East Hungary, with a strong police presence. The far-right Jobbik party organized a rally to protest against the allegedly unbearable behaviour of Roma families living in the Avas district. Roma rights activists organized a counterdemonstration, while DK, the new splinter party of former Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány also held a rally against racism.  Despite fears that the demonstrators would clash, no incidents took place. Jobbik mobilized about 1500 supporters while the Roma and the DK counter-demonstrations drew a few hundred protesters.

In Magyar Narancs, the editor admits that the atmosphere at Avas is tense. Hundreds of Roma families were moved in over the past years from their villages by a mafia that took bank credits and public housing subsidies on their behalf. The Roma were then installed in the flats without any source of income and were therefore unable to pay their bills. The result, the liberal weekly remarks, is that “the newcomers keep the area under constant terror.” Either the city of Miskolc will manage to bring things back to normal at Avas, Magyar Narancs concludes, or “the place will be the Devil’s prey. And the country with it.”

In a front-page editorial, Népszabadság describes the event as insignificant, despite nationwide efforts to mobilize both sides. It is a significant disappointment for Vona, the author writes, who apparently tried to jumpstart Jobbik with a large demonstration. Racist and anti-Semitic messages, Jobbik’s main political weapons, have lost a lot of their appeal in Hungary, the newspaper concludes. Yet there is a lesson to be learned for the organizers of the counter-demonstrations as well, Népszabadság warns. There are many more people who are ready to stand up against racism in Hungary but it matters a lot, who calls them to arms – the author suggest, in a clear reference to civil rights leader and former liberal MP Aladár Horváth, who has a rather limited audience among Hungary’s Gypsies.

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