The exterior of Budapest's Central Synagogue.
(photo credit: Mya Guarnieri)
A crowd of 500 demonstrators, including neo-Nazis and
skinheads, rampaged in Budapest's Jewish district.
Hungarian riot police deployed tear gas and baton charges
Saturday against the vociferously xenophobic crowd as it tried to disrupt
Hungary's annual Gay Pride parade.
More than 30 arrests were made on charges including
possession of offensive weapons and riotous behavior. Heightened surveillance
was enforced throughout the day to prevent a recurrence of the mayhem that ended
last year's parade, in which there were more than a dozen serious injuries,
according to Éva Tafferner, press officer at Budapest police headquarters.
The rioters invaded the heart of the traditional Jewish
Ghetto District, started a small fire, tore down signs and shouted threatening
anti-Semitic vitriol. The attacks were witnessed by families of foreign Jews
visiting the district for the current Budapest Jewish Cultural Festival.
One British tourist trying to argue with the rioters at the
edge of the ghetto had to be rescued by police when he was verbally abused and
physically assaulted by a gang of 20 attackers. A policeman who tried to break
up a confrontation not far from there was knocked to the ground and kicked, as
was a woman displaying a Gay Pride T-shirt while standing alone at a tram stop.
The parade drew support from artists, politicians and human
rights organizations in many countries. An anti-fascist organization in
neighboring Austria sent busloads of activists who marched beneath a giant
Former Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, who took
part in the parade, declared: "All free citizens must defend human rights."