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Anti-Semitic motorbike-show banned twice

April 22nd, 2013

Left-liberal commentators deplore the way the extreme right-wing motorbike demonstration planned on the day of the annual “March of Life” was banned by the Prime Minister.

An organisation called “Bikers with national feelings” called for a “season opening” demonstration on Sunday, after their “Step on the gas” march was banned on the personal initiative of the Prime Minister (see BudaPost, April 10). The police did not object at first, but then the Prime Minister ordered the Minister of the Interior to prevent that ride from taking place, then the Budapest Police Chief banned the demonstration, arguing that the new route and theme were clearly aimed at bypassing the ban imposed on their anti-Semitic initiative.

In Magyar Narancs (print version), reacting to the first ban, Zoltán Ádám remarks that under the Public Assembly Act, the police can ban a demonstration (within 48 hours after the receipt of the notification by the organisers) only if it would disturb the normal functioning of legislative or judicial institutions, or  if “traffic cannot be secured through alternative routes”. Banning a demonstration several days after it was authorised, and for reasons other than the ones specified in the law, is clearly illegal, formally speaking, Ádám claims. He admits to being a stiff opponent of the present government’s policies and practices, but in this particular case, he concedes that the Prime Minister had to choose between two bad options. It would have been also illegal to let a demonstration take place with the explicit or implicit aim of expressing racial hatred and supporting the idea of genocide. In that case the government and the police would now be held responsible for an event casting shame on Hungary in the eyes of the civilised world. Therefore, despite his misgivings about a strange precedent, Ádám thinks the government has opted for “the lesser evil” by banning the demonstration.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Balázs M. Tóth, a lawyer working for the Hungarian Helsinki Committee argues that the solution chosen by the authorities was illegal but a legal option would have been possible. In fact, he believes the constitutional principles invoked by the police have not been translated into binding legal provisions; therefore the police had legally no other option than to take note of the demonstration. But the Public Assembly Act does not allow for demonstrations to pursue illegal aims, therefore the police should have warned the organisers of that risk, and as soon as their march could in fact be deemed illegal as violating other people’s legitimate rights, the police would have had an obligation to immediately dissolve the gathering. Such a solution would imply that the police have to weigh the right of assembly against the right to other peoples’ dignity, but that would not have been a difficult decision to take in the case of a neo-Nazi march on a day of Holocaust remembrance.

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