Police Presence During the 20th Budapest Pride Festival

Fotó: Csoszó Gabriella

Similarly to previous years, our organzing team had consecutive meetings with the police leading up to the 20th Budapest Pride Festival. We closed a successful lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) event series, mostly without any incidents and with the supportive presence of police forces throughout the week. However, securing the Budapest Pride March may have been successful, but hermetically separating the marchers cannot comply with the objectives of the event. We believe that the state organization should be able to provide sufficient security for the event without fences.

For long years we have been trying to make the cooperation with the police smoother by giving input and constructive criticism regarding their work at the annual Budapest Pride March. In recent years the police have been hermetically separating the entire route of the march from downtown, making it impossible to join the event at later points. It is also problematic that the police often fail to fulfill their obligation for action against the gradually decreasing number of extremist hooligans, who were this year no more than two dozen. Moreover, in recent years they failed to provide safety for those leaving the march at the end of the event. In the same content the ombudsman issued a statement, in which he claimed that the police is obligated to secure the leaving of the venue for marchers.                                            

We were glad to see that this year the police managed to keep the extremist hooligans away from the entrance and exit points, as well as the entire route of the march by reacting quickly and efficiently to their presence. This year 200 volunteers provided by Budapest Pride had the sole task of giving information and directions to the crowd. As a novelty, the march was secured by legal observers, equipped with video recorders. Their task was to record the behavior and conduct of the police and extremist hooligans.

However, it is a great disappointment that the police have not found a better solution for securing the march than putting fences along the entire route of the march. By 2015 it is clear that the presence of 30 extremist hooligans trying to disturb an event with 20,000 marchers can no longer be a good argument for putting the march in “cages”, hermetically separating it from the city. The main objectives of the march, namely raising awareness and increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ community cannot be reached this way. In addition, it completely closes out the possibility of taking part in the march for those who agree with the objectives of the event and would like to join the event at a later point. Based on the above, we suggest that the police should provide the security of the march with manpower, instead of fences.

During the 10 day festival the police were cooperative and helpful, securing all the venues of the festival, however, on the day of the march there were several incidents happening against participants coming to or going from Budapest Pride events, witnessed by the police. Considering this, we recommend that the education of the police forces should include trainings which provide them with methods to deal with homophobia, transphobia, racism and any form of discrimination or oppression. Thus they would be able to provide sufficient help and security for LGBTQ people living in Hungary.