It was incredibly hot and sunny for Budapest Pride. However, that didn’t stop almost 1,000 people turning out for Pride.
While previous marches were held in public view, since the violence of the 2007 and 2008 Budapest Prides, the march now takes place on a closed off section of one of the city’s main thoroughfares, Andrassy Street. Ahead of the event, organizers were in disputes with police over the length of the Pride. While last year they were allowed to walk down the entire length of the street, this year they could only go half-way. The police said due to flooding problems in the South of Hungary, they didn’t have enough gates to block off the whole street.
Chad and I set off around 9 in the morning to watch the gates being set up (on half of Andrassy). We also watched them install some video cameras along the Pride route. Around 11am, police in full riot gear turned out. I can guess this must have been really unbearable in the July heat, as I was baking in a tee-shirt and jeans.
One of the difficulties of having a closed off Pride March is deciding who to let in. And, unfortunately, a few people who would later cause a minor disruption of the Pride procession were mistakenly let in, as well as three completely wasted individuals that proceeded to give television interviews while falling over drunk (and in general made asses out of themselves).
The march started around 4p, after the arrival of a large decorated float with music blasting from speakers onboard. About a thousand people, including quite a few heterosexual supporters, marched down Andrassy Street. I noticed several signs against homophobia, and against fascism. The event reminded me very much of Romania’s GayFest, as people walked and danced down a big empty street.
Everything was going fine and was very festive until 4 right-wingers who had infiltrated the pride took a stand in front of the truck. Not wanting to run anyone down, whoever was driving the truck decided to stop, and the police rushed out to arrest the skinheads. However, this did cause a minor disruption to the procession, and organizers decided to turn back the march at that point as it was nearly to the end of the route anyway.
The speeches for this Pride took place before the event, so when the march had returned to the starting point those on the organizing committee began ushering participants into the closed-off metro, where police would escort them to safe exit points away from the event. This was good in theory, but they chose to use the metro entrance right in front of those demonstrating against the Pride, instead of any of the previous 4 empty stops on the closed off street.
As you might guess the right-wing protestors just a metal barrier away from those participating in the Pride march began chanting anti-homophobic slogans. Pride participants would respond with chants against homophobia and fascism. While the police outside the gate kept trying to quiet the skin heads and other protestors, the volunteer organizers inside the gated area tried to do the same – encouraging people to be silent and not to provoke the protestors.
The organizers had just fears concerning safety, however this still didn’t go over well as many who had come to participate in Budapest Pride wanted to speak up and demonstrate against homophobia. The photo below shows one young man trying to hold out his rainbow flag, as organizers link hands and try to push him away from the barricade.
On September 4th those opposing the pride have promised to hold their own heterosexual march down Andrassy Street.
To view more images check out the WWP: Behind the Photos blog