We did miss the main demo in the afternoon by Fidesz, the mainstream conservative opposition party, which apparently several tens of thousands attended (big but not huge, then.) Fidesz has reason to celebrate: it won a referendum a week or two ago, which it had long been fighting for, about some of the public services reforms the government is undertaking. (The "reforms" mostly come down to a series of financial cuts and measures to make people pay more themselves. Confusingly, these are reforms undertaken by a Socialist government and condemned by the conservative opposition). They won the referendum convincingly, too.
At the end of that demo, the Fidesz speaker apparently called on the participants to please not
go to the demo subsequently held by the far right Jobbik
- on Blaha Lujza Square, at 19:00. (Anastasia suggested they might as well have added "nudge nudge, wink wink"; I'm not sure, maybe he was sincere.)
So instead, we went there. Because after we'd discovered we'd missed the main demo, we'd gone for some cake and tea and a visit to the artisan market, and then on our way back noticed that the road to Blaha Lujza (which is down the street from where we live), was blocked. So of course we went to take a look.
Young crowd. Maybe 1,000-2,000, not all too large. All decked out in flags, Hungarian flags but especially the "Arpad Flag," which is for the real patriots.
I was really amazed by how young the people were - 80% must have been under 30. (Great, a whole new generation discovers pseudo-facsism as its counterculture.) Lot of alternative types that in Holland you might find at a lefty demo, some squatters do or something; studded belts and the like. Lots of alternative student-looking types too, guys with thick long hair in a ponytail and the like. Coupla skinheads. But also just plenty of regular young guys. And a fair share of football supporter/hooligan types.
Overwhelmingly male; I said it looked like a mix between a Motorhead concert and a Marillion fanclub day (or what I imagine that to be).
Still, there were girls too, mixed groups, as well as a fair sprinkling of old people of at least 60 years old, sometimes in folkloric gear. It's a coalition of grandparents and grandchildren. Staz was surprised at all the different kinds of people, but I thought it was less of a representative slice than, say, a year ago.
The two speakers we saw werent great, but in a way that kind of spoke for them; the feeling was like they were also just regular angry protestors, who had somehow made it up to the stage. Not great orators, but sincere. Lots of talk about the politicians being "liars", and Hungary being sold out.
The mood of the audience, for the moment, was pretty tepid. Kind of apathetic, said Staz. Makes sense; after all, these protests have gone on for almost two years now, and they arent going anywhere, really. The government's approval ratings may be in the dumps, but it's not going anywhere, and all these people can do is vent their frustration.
The second speaker got them a little more fired up though. He cleverly paused after mentioning Prime Minister Gyurcsany's name, to allow for a rolling wave of boos and whistles to emerge and crest. And he was strident, very strident. In a hoarse and throaty voice, he railed against the government.
"This is the state our country's gotten in," he would say; and my Hungarian isnt good enough to catch much of anything, but it sounded like he railed against rising costs, against privatisation, against corruption. "And that's what I'm afraid of," he continued - not the police, but "coming to see, in our adult-age generation, our country become such a country; a country of liberalism!" He spit out the word, liberalizmus
- "that is what I'm afraid of, not of facing the police and their teargas and their beating!"
Very loosely paraphrased, of course. That got a rousing applause.
"And they say we cant win," he ripped loose, "but we won - that day, on Sept 19, 2006, when we were in front of Hungarian Television!" (At least, again, thats what I think he roughly said - but he was definitely referring to the occupation of the Hungarian national TV building
Anastasia asked whether he was inciting a riot. Um, well. "And my brother brought a flag, that day", he started in on an anecdote. It roughly came down to that he brought this flag to the protests, that night, and there were fights with the police, there were beatings - and something got on the flag (I assume blood). And "he brought that flag home, and we will never, ever wash out this flag, our flag!" Another rousing applause.
The speaker, who I think might have been György Budaházy, appealed everyone to stand by their flag. When you see that flag, stand by it! Stand tall. I'm not quite clear whether he meant in general, or specifically to the flag they were carrying - as in, when we now go, keep an eye on this flag and let's try to stay together. Because that's where we went next.