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Standoff between police and City Park activists

June 30th, 2016

While Magyar Idők criticises environmentalists trying to obstruct a project that aims to remodel Budapest’s No. 1 public park, Magyar Nemzet thinks the government’s attitude is part of the problem.

In Hungary, there are usually two basic reasons for resentment: if something is being built, and if something is not, jokes Ottó Gajdics in his Magyar Idők editorial, reflecting on recent clashes between security guards, police and environmentalists in City Park.

Plans to build a new museum quarter in Budapest’s most frequented but neglected public park, has triggered a bitter protest movement against the project that critics say would involve cutting down healthy trees and creating huge buildings in the inner-city sanctuary. The movement has quickly assumed political overtones with an unsuccessful drive to hold a referendum on the issue (see BudaPost January 22nd, 2016), and is now supported by LMP and part of a Budapest intelligentsia with strong roots in environmentalist and political activism dating back to the late 80’s. Protesters on the ground have tried to prevent workers from cutting trees and starting construction, which lead to standoffs with police and security, the latest earlier this week.

The staunchly pro-government paper calls the protest movement ‘fake’ and their actions absurd, since, the author thinks they are fighting those who in fact want to save the dilapidated park. In the eyes of the protesters, the biggest problem with the project is, Gajdics concludes, that it was conceived and is being built by Viktor Orbán’s government: that is why it has to be blocked and hindered by all possible means.

Benedek Ficsor in Magyar Nemzeadmits that actions by protesters in Hungary are sometimes off the mark. The movement is clearly anti-government in its stance, therefore ‘protection’ is often replaced by an attitude of irrational resistance, the author adds. However, he also blames the government, accusing it of embarking on the costly project without properly consulting professional bodies and local communities. He also deplores the fact that while construction is already underway, the plans are still being frequently changed. Ficsor condemns what he calls an aggressive and often misleading city poster and newspaper advertisement campaign by the company responsible for the venture.