This picture shows a batallion of riot police at the Oktogon Budapest, 5th July 2008. There were also several lorries and vans of police at the venue. I could not avoid walking through the Oktogon, as the metro was not running and my workplace had been at Heroe's Square. My students had explained to me that there was a Gay Pride carnival procession and that trouble was expected.
They were not joking.
At each corner as I walked from Heroes' Square, I saw riot shields at every corner, whilst the road was fenced off. The police officers looked like American footballers in black, with complete with heavy-duty codpieces.
It was difficult to pass through the Oktogon, as a lot of the roads were sealed off, yet the police were warning tourists to get away. I went for a milkshake in Mc Donald's to to get onto Wifi, and asked one of the staff what was going on. She told me that there was to be a Far Right counter-demonstration. She was rather apologetic and seemd to find the whole thing in very poor taste.
On going onto the street again, I saw men jeering and mincing at the way the police were protecting the gays, hate and hysteria not far from the surface of a lot of the waiting crowd. A scuffle started near me as several motorsycles were knocked over whilst the police arrested and handcuffed a National Front supporter. More trouble then started as some of the crowd tried to breach the fence baarier - firecrackers were thrown and the police responded with tear gas.
When the carnival came, the crowd got ready with the eggs and firecrackers they had brought to pelt at the procession, who came on floats, or walked peacefully along with coloured umbrellas and carnival dress. I had been on a similar walk without this massive presence whilst taking part in a Goddess festival that someone had told me about just two weeks previously, but we did not get any aggro, mainly because I don't think most people knew what the festival was about. The response there was mainly bemusement.
Afterwards, a politician spoke in persuasive, reasonable tones about how the new laws regarding gays and liberals were so wrong and that in a strong and wholesome Hungary, solid family values would ensure that nothing like this would be allowed to happen.
I wrote a blog criticising certain aspects of Britsh culture earlier on and about the higher levels of aggression and violence in the UK. By and large, there is very little of that here. But.....
Just don't make a point of being either gay, or Jewish, or dark-skinned here.
I suppose every culture has its fault-lines, blind spots, folk devils. It is not as if I have not seen intimations of this way well before yesterday. I had just never seen the hatred displayed so openly before now, not witnessed the real potential for violence.
Budapest's finest Hour - Not.