Monday, March 21, 2011

March 20: a Visit to Gyöngyöspata

On March 20 15 activists visited Gyöngyöspata in order to support local Roma community that was suffering from neo-nazi terror in the past weeks. 

Due to the terror against the Roma people the Magyar Gárda created in the past weeks in Gyöngyöspata the local Roma were suffering a lot, and they really needed protection and support. As some activists were going there in the last week to provide this support and protect the local gypsies from the Gárda, the situation was getting more and more attention from the media and NGOs, and after all we have heard that the Gárda has left the town. But still the local Roma asked the activists to come there just in case and provide them with support in case the gárda comes back. Moreover, the locals had to spend money on leaving the town, and they could not always buy food as the Gárda was patrolling the shops, moreover, the local Roma community was also accomodating and giving food to all the activists who came to support them during the past two weeks. So, the activists decided to go there and bring some food on March 20 to ca. 450 people from the Roma community that constituted 115 families. 

The activists agreed to meet at Blaha square in Budapest at noon and go to Gyöngyöspata by cars. Some people just came there to bring food and give it to those going to Gyöngyöspata. There were only 4 cars that could accommodate 15 people and all the food. There were various activists at Blaha, both Hungarian and foreign, as well some representatives of Amnesty International Hungary. The activists also decided to cook some food in Gyöngyöspata, therefore the first destination point was TESCO in Gyöngyös. At around 12-30 the cars started going to Gyöngyös.

As we arrived to TESCO, we decided to cook a dinner (paprikas krumpli - potatoes with paprika) together with one of the biggest Roma family (its member is also a representative of the Roma community to a local government) of Göngyöspata. We did not have resources to cook for the whole community (450 people), so we decided to cook only for this 15 member family. After we bought all the ingridients for the meal and also some packs of flower, sugar and cans we started going to Gyöngyöspata. On the way we saw a bunch of nationalist bikers hanging out next to TESCO. 

As we arrived to Gyöngyöspata, around 100 people from the Roma community were waiting for us in the streets, most of them were kids. Everyone was really glad to see us, and they just surrounded us and started talking about the situation and how glad they were that we came there. A lot of kids were really open and interested in everyone, they were also curious if we brought some chocolate. The most of the activists brought the food to the house of the family of the local Roma representative and then together with his family started distributing the packages for the Roma families. 

Here is the description of the food brought:

114 kilos of flour
106 kilos of potatoes
56 kilos of pasta
61 kilos of rice
30 kilos of sugar
10 kilos of onions
10 liters of milk
4 liters of oil
100 of canned food
90 canned májkrém :D
1 loaf of bread
6 packs of coffee
6 bottles of soda
6 bags of chips
1-1 piece of cheese, margarine, nutella, cookies, pudding, babapiskóta :)
were distributed among the Roma community in Gyöngyöspata!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The 115 families received 1 food pack each - we tried to distribute the food fairly.

Later on the people started cooking the dinner. Meanwhile, I went with a couple of activists to discover the situation in the town and to talk with the Roma families and kids. Most of all I was interested to see what is going on with the gárda and the police, as on the way we saw 7 people (as it turned out later, they are from Gyöngyös) dressed in black with some white and red striped triangle (white and red stripes constitute so-called Árpad flag, a symbol of Hungarian neo-nazi) on their backs and with "polgárőrség" (civil guard) words at a shop. On hte way to the shop there was a police car, and the local police checked our documents. 

As there was nobody at the shop, I and 2 other activists went back together with some kids, and as we returned to the street where more Roma houses are, we saw that the police car was still there, on the crossing of two streets. After a while we saw a raw of the nationalist bikers (around 20-30) going on the street perpendicular to the one leading to the Roma settlement (it is segregated, surprise-surprise!) followed by a police mini-van. After that I was hanging out with local kids and then one family invited me for a cup of tea, and we talked about the situation and how they were feeling in the last days. Overall, they told that the gárda people were marching and patrolling the town every day, mostly harassing children at a school and in the kindergarten, so some 3-year-old kids got totally terrified, and they started having serious psychological problems because of the gárda, e.g., peeing themselves. Moreover, a woman told that the gárda were wearing black masks and standing next to the shops, so they looked like some robbers. But the main aim of the gárda was not to rob a shop, but to prevent Roma people from going there. Moreover, the family told me about the hard situation there, as it is quite hard to sustain the family due to social discrimination, e.g., it is almost impossible to find a job if you are a gypsy. A woman told that she had to work for 30.000 HUF a month at some hard job that mostly men do, and still she was harassed there. We also talked about the attitude of the police that seems to be against the Roma people in Gyöngyöspata. 

We could have talked further, but then we saw the local 'gárda' marching in the street and then stopping in front of the house. So, the family went out to ask them what they were doing, and also to call the police that was nearby. So, I have got an opportunity to talk to the police about the situation. I managed to talk top 3 policemen, and all of them gave me more or less response.

One policeman told that the people in black are just civil guards appointed by the non-Roma citizens of the town in order to patrol the town due to the increased number of crimes. These people in black are not neo-nazis and they are not harassing anyone, they are just walking to keep the order in the town. Another one told that the people in black are just patrolling the town due to the increased crime level, and in order to understand why the local civil guards are in the town I need to live in Gyöngyöspata for a week and then make a conclusion myself if there is a need for them or not. Moreover, he told that these guys are not harassing anyone based on ethnicity. The third one told that he comes from Budapest just to check the situation in the town, so he does not know much. When I asked him why the people in black march in the town, and if they have the same attitude towards Roma and non-Roma people, e.g., if they harass both Roma and non-Roma kids, he told that there is not difference between the treatment of Roma and non-Roma people, and the guards are just watching the public order.

After this I went to the house where the dinner was cooked and spent the rest of the evening with the family and other activists. We talked further about life in Gyöngyöspata, and I also had a nice walk with two girl around the neighbourhood. On the way we met a girl who is 20 year old and has 3 kids, and she told how hard her situation is and she asked for some support in form of money or kids clothes. So, more support for the Roma community would really helpful, because the problem is not just in the terror of the Roma minority by the gárda, but also social segregation. 

We went back to Budapest around 8 p.m., but the local Roma citizens cordially invited us to come back!

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