On 25 July Békés county court rejected public prosecutors’ request that the so-called Civil Guard Association for a Better Future (Szebb Jövõért Polgárõr Egyesület), the paramilitary organisation behind last year’s anti-Roma disturbances in Gyöngyöspata, be disbanded.
Emboldened by this unexpected turn of events, on 5 August Civil Guardsmen converged on the western town of Devecser, site of 2010’s red sludge disaster, to march through the Roma quarter carrying banners proclaiming the “right of Hungarian self-defence” against “Gypsy criminality”. According to witness accounts the demonstration quickly turned violent, with demonstrators pelting Roma homes with rocks and other objects.
The so-called “Live and Let Live” demonstration exploited anti-Roma sentiment arising from the fact that a number of Roma families whose homes had been destroyed or otherwise rendered uninhabitable by red sludge had been resettled in other parts of the town traditionally reserved for non-Roma.
Two weeks later on 18 August some 400 guardsmen held a similar demonstration in the central Hungarian city of Cegléd.
The resumption of paramilitary operations targetting Roma communities after more than a year’s hiatus constitutes a serious threat to the rule of law and democracy itself.
The speech delivered by Jobbik chairman Gábor Vona in Hõsök tere (Heroes Square) on Saturday leaves little doubt that Jobbik continues to sponsor, if not actively direct, successor organisations to the banned Hungarian Guard, including the New Hungarian Guard and the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future.
Unless something is done to protect Hungarian democracy from the serious threat posed by Jobbik and the various paramilitary organisations associated with this radical right-wing party, violent demonstrations and disturbances reminiscent of those perpetrated by Mussolini’s fascists and Hitler’s Nazis in the 1920s and 1930s are likely to increase in frequency and intensity in the run-up to parliamentary and local elections scheduled for 2014.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA
Live by the sword…
Gábor Ferenczi, Jobbik MP (centre) cleans his right temple after being injured during a stone-throwing clash in front of the house of a Roma family at the “Live and let live – demonstration for rightful Hungarian self-defence” in Devecser on 5 August. The demonstration involving Jobbik and several radical organisations began on the square outside the town’s Catholic church. The participants then marched in the streets where they believe Gypsies to be living. The police secured the route of the demonstrators with a cordon.