Budapest, 16 March 2011
R. I. S.
According to the local representative of the Jobbik party in the Heves County village, crimes against property have become unbearable to the locals, who have therefore called the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future to protect them. Gábor Vona, the president of Jobbik said in Gyöngyöspata that „those are not willing to integrate should leave the country.” More than 2,000 members and sympathizers of Jobbik and the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future held a protest in the village, which counts 2,500 citizens, against „Gypsy terror”, fearing that „crimes committed by the minorities could create a civil war situation.”
The Roma were astonished. According to them, generalizing and exercising arbitrary control over the whole village because of a few trouble makers is not a solution. Nearly 2,500 persons marched in black military-like clothing on 6th March 2011 in Gyöngyöspata, after the rally supported by the Jobbik party, through the village’s Roma neighborhood, chanting slogans about the restoration of public safety. The police arrived on the scene on the day of the demonstration but did not interfere in any way, regardless of the “abuse caused to the rights of the local Roma residents, which could have been a ground for the authorities to break up the protest”, as mentioned in the letter written by the members of Gyöngyöspata’s Roma community to the Hungarian Minister of Home Affairs.
After the end of the protest the activists wearing the black uniforms of the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future, the “Defense Guard” or the “gendarmerie” did not leave Gyöngyöspata. They are there to this day and still terrorize the local Roma population. They stand in lines and surround the neighborhood. Because of their threatening appearance, the Roma do not dare leave their houses or send their children to school. Their stated goals and behavior clearly questions the state monopoly on the legitimate use of force. The village has a local police chief who had earlier initiated investigations into some thefts and closed some cases. However, many local residents considered it necessary to strengthen public safety by calling on the civil guards to protect their village. While the police doubled their presence on the scene two days after the protest, the members of the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future and its sympathizers are still forming a human chain around the houses of Roma residents and say they are there to stay. The police, while present in large numbers, still do not interfere in any way, regardless of the fact that there is reasonable suspicion that offenses such as harassment and bodily injury are occurring on a day to day basis against many of the village’s Roma residents. Some of the protesters have vowed to stay on and guard the village until the local Roma self-government does not sign a declaration stating that the Roma will stop committing crimes. Attila Laszlo, the leader of the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future said that he had heard about the municipality requesting that the Civil Guard should leave but that this was later retracted by the mayor. The mayor’s office confirmed his statement. According to their initial plans, they intend to stay until they train and organize a local branch of the organization made up of local residents.
Attila Laszlo added that during the night, his guards had once again helped capture two wood thieves in the surroundings of the village. As they caught the thief red-handed, they called the local police, who initiated proceedings. Food is regularly being collected and accommodation offered to the civil guards by local residents.
László Tabi, the independent mayor of Gyöngyöspata told the press on 9th March that the civil guards had since been actively involved in capturing wood thieves. Simultaneously, local residents continued to offer accommodation and food to their “guests” and initiated a petition to demand that the Civil Guard stay on.
Jobbik representative András Kisgergely reminded his followers that “Gypsies attack Hungarians each and every day. Typically, the gypsy carries a knife, and after having committed a theft and met with resistance, he starts his killing spree. It is not enough for him to hurt the one who resists, it is his life he wants to take!” According to the politican, “gypsy criminals are left free to maraud in villages, terrorize and murder the Hungarians while they are protected through every means possible and their acts are left out of the public eye.”
One article in major ultra-nationalist website, www.barikad.hu, begins with the statement that in Gyöngyöspata, on the day of the protest, the population had once again approached the ideal Hungarian “ethnic ratio”, a concept which, with demographic decline among non-Roma and high birth rates among Roma in Hungary, is gaining in importance in the ultra-nationalist narrative in Hungary. Gábor Vona, president of the Jobbik party, said that he had received information from different sources that the local Roma had been threatening the “Hungarian” residents in Gyöngyöspata, promising that revenge would be taken after the civil guards left the village. The politician promised that: “if need be, twice, three times as many civil guards will come back.” Mr. Vona added that they would organize the civil guard movement across the country’s cities and villages.
“We went to Gyöngyöspata on Thursday, 10th March, and found we had to cross two checkpoints reminiscent of war movies to enter the Roma neighborhood.” wrote the www.sosinet.hu website. At that point tension was intense between the Roma and the people clad in black uniforms surrounding them. “During our interviews, local Roma inhabitants told us about the psychological terror and humiliation they are suffering, the constant fear they are feeling. It is not safe for them to leave their homes, even to go to work.” In their declaration, the local Rona draw attention to the fact that the members of the Hungarian Guard hidden behind “Civil Guard Association for a Better Future” and “gendarme” uniforms and openly supported by the Jobbik party have kept the Roma residents of the village in a state of constant fear for the past two weeks. The situation has come to a point where the Roma are terrified to leave their houses, stopped sending their children to school and do not even feel secure inside their own homes.
Activists began organizing a crowd to “celebrate” the 15 March National Holiday in Gyöngyöspata. Between 230-250 people arrived to the village in the morning and spent the day in the Roma neighborhood to celebrate Hungary’s commemoration of its revolution against Austrian rule in 1848. They walked together to the Kossuth (a hero of the revolution) statue, claiming in statement signed by spokespersons Tamás Bauer, László Márton and Iván Vitányi that “laws apply to all, not only to those who commit crimes against other persons’ property. They also apply to those self-appointed militia members who keep others in a state of terror.” Today is 16 March, a day after the National Holiday. A few people were taken to the police station yesterday in Gyöngyöspata because they could not show their ID’s.
“The police, the legitimate guardians of public safety, have been watching on silently as an aggressive organization bulldozes through the basic norms of any democratic state based on the rule of law and attacks members of the Roma minority arbitrarily instead of preventing this state of affairs from developing from the day it started.” - says the Hungarian Democratic Charta in their statement.
The Hungarian Democratic Charta and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ), two NGOs, have expressed their shock at the lack of response of the Hungarian authorities: “We are shocked by the inaction of the police, which could encourage others to take similar actions and could deepen the loss of trust of the Roma minority in the authorities and the administration.” While many representatives of European governments and journalists from all over the world are currently in Hungary for the EU Presidency summits, neither the events, nor their statement have made it into the international press.
The question is whether Hungary, which is currently holding the European Union Presidency, will acknowledge that vigilantism, the concept of demographic “ ethnic ratio” and the meaning given to Hungarian national values by those who claim to protect this country and their sympathizers is a direct path back to where Hungary stood in the 1930s, and whether this government will finally take real steps to stand by its stated principles and stop militias advocating crimes against humanity from taking our country over once again.
“After Gyöngyöspata”, the Jobbik party has asked the members of the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future “to take the restoration of public safety into their own hands in Borsodnánasd also.”
We urge all to unite against the recent racist trend!
The Hungarian Guard is a Hungarian ultra-nationalist movement supported by the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party, which won 16 % of the national vote in the 2010 general elections. The Guard was banned in July 2009 by a Budapest court. Judge Pataki, in charge of the case, decided that the Hungarian Guard's main aim is to spread fear among Roma and noted that the Guard is also anti-Semitic because in a speech a spokesman of the Guard talked about “Zionist rats, locusts, and grave diggers of the nation.” The judge pointed out that all these activities are unconstitutional and not in conformity with Hungary's international obligations. The Civil Guard Association for a Better Future was founded in 2010 and has been trying ever since to join the National Federation of Civil Guards to legitimize its activities. These attempts have been met with the Federation’s refusal to cooperate. Most Hungarians acknowledge that due to the support of Jobbik and to the similarity of the organization’s stated objectives and the methods used and black uniforms of its members, the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future is the successor of the banned Hungarian Guard.
The Author is ORSOLYA FEHÉR political analyst belongs to R. I. S. Network
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