March for Life and the anti-Semitic Patriotic Bikers of Hungary

A group of right-wing bikers planned to stage a demonstration all across Budapest, including zooming by the famous synagogue on Dohány utca. The slogan for the demonstration was “Give Gas! Hands off our homeland and our homes!” The demonstration was scheduled for April 21, the same day as the March for Life (Az élet menete). The march, designed to pay tribute to the victims of the Hungarian Holocaust, has been held every year since 2002. Last year’s march was especially memorable, and I wrote about it right after the event.

II Give Gas With police escort Hands off our homeland and our house

II. Give Gas!
With police escort
Hands off our homeland and our homes!

Readers of Hungarian Spectrum are familiar with the Goy Bikers, whom I introduced as early as 2008. The organizers of this particular gathering belong to another group who call themselves Nemzeti Érzelmű Motorosok, loosely translated as Patriotic Bikers. As one can see, however, patriotism is not exactly their most notable characteristic. Their anti-Semitism is. At least the Goy Bikers proudly identify themselves as an anti-Semitic group, which is reflected even in their name. These guys, on the other hand, hide behind their patriotism.

And as if we didn’t have enough of these characters lately, there are also the Scythian Bikers (Szkíta Motorosok) who are ready to join the “Give Gas!” demonstration. As a reminder, the Scythians were an Iranian tribe and Jobbik is especially fond of the current regime in Iran. According to some commentators, the Goy Bikers have closer relations with Fidesz while the Patriots are linked to Jobbik. We know that the chief organizer of the “Give Gas!” demonstration, Sándor Jeszenszky, is the Jobbik chairman of Budapest’s District XI. (District XI, by the way, is one of the ritziest sections of Buda.) Gábor Vona, the chairman of Jobbik, is apparently furious over Jeszenszky’s connection with the Patriotic Bikers, although I doubt that the party chairman knew nothing about it earlier.

The organizers proudly announced on their posters that the bikers will be escorted by the police. From the poster it is also clear that this is not the first such demonstration organized by the Patriotic Bikers. It is the second. They made an appearance for the first time in 2012 on the day the March of Life took place in Budapest. Why didn’t we hear about their demonstration a year ago? Well, there were a couple of articles about the bikers protesting high gasoline prices, higher tolls, and new rules and regulations concerning drivers’ licenses. So, their demonstration couldn’t be directly connected to the March for Life. This time there is no question what “Give Gas!” means. Mind you, the “Give Gas!” slogan is not exactly original. On a 2011 poster of the German National Democratic Party (NPD) the party leader Udo Voigt can be seen riding a motorbike with the slogan “Gas geben.”

The Hungarian Jewish umbrella organization, MAZSIHISZ, called on everybody to come to the gate of the Jewish quarters in order to prevent the bikers from entering. And indeed that would have been one of the two legal answers to the bikers’ provocative plans once the police accepted their application to demonstrate. The other would have been for members of the government, including Viktor Orbán, to join the March for Life and walk along with the crowd and those opposition politicians who normally attend. But given Viktor Orbán’s reluctance to alienate the extreme right and his negative attitude toward any kind of cooperation with the opposition, we knew that he would neither show solidarity with the Jewish population of Hungary nor walk alongside his political opponents. However, considering that the next meeting of the World Jewish Congress will be held in Budapest, which apparently Viktor Orbán himself will attend, the prime minister decided that he had to do something, however uncomfortable it might be for him. A truly uncomfortable position given Orbán’s relations with the extreme right and his fears that the fourth amendment to the new constitution may not be well received in Brussels. It took only a few hours for Viktor Orbán himself to forbid the “Give Gas!” anti-Semitic demonstration.

This happened on Monday in Parliament. Pál Steiner of MSZP asked Viktor Orbán, who happened to be in the chamber, about a “Nazi-like” (náci szellemű) demonstration that is being “led by the police.” Although according to house rules it should have been Sándor Pintér who answered the question, Viktor Orbán, stressing the importance of the issue, rose to reply to Steiner’s question directly. In his answer he informed Steiner that he had already “instructed Sándor Pintér not to grant permission” for the bikers to hold their demonstration. A few hours later the organizers were informed in writing that the announced demonstration cannot be held.

Viktor Orbán as prime minister has the right to instruct his ministers to do or not to do certain things. Did Pintér have to follow Orbán’s instructions and did the police have to obey Pintér’s instructions? The answer is yes. The only remaining question is whether it was legal to forbid the biker demonstration. Legal experts claim that most likely it was not legal. According to laws currently in force, police competence to decide who can and who cannot demonstrate is extremely limited. As the law reads, the police force “doesn’t permit” a demonstration; it only “acknowledges” its taking place. There are only two circumstances under which the police may not “acknowledge” an already announced demonstration: (1) if the demonstration seriously endangers the functioning of the parliament or the courts or (2) if the flow of traffic cannot be ensured via an alternate route.

The bikers announced their demonstration to the police on April 3, and because the police didn’t raise any objection to their holding the rally within 48 hours they in effect sanctioned it. When on April 8 the police refused to recognize the demonstration, they gave as their reason that the demonstration “might be accompanied by an assault against public order.” But to prohibit a demonstration on the grounds that it may involve a crime is not lawful. If in the course of the event there are signs of violence the police can simply disperse the crowd.

Given the presumed illegality of the police action taken on the instruction of Sándor Pintér and Viktor Orbán, it is not at all surprising that the Patriotic Bikers are challenging the decision in court. It can easily happen that the Bikers will win. As one of the legal experts said, by now Viktor Orbán and his government don’t even try to pretend that Hungary is a full-fledged democracy. The quasi-dictator can transgress existing laws and act on his own. And his “subjects” even thank him for it, as Pál Steiner did in parliament. Such occurrences can also happen in a country where the laws concerning freedom of assembly and its limitations are not properly spelled out. Just as Viktor Orbán can forbid this particular demonstration, he might be able to do the same when the democratic opposition wants to go out on the streets the next time. Although the anti-Semites’ bike ride is odious, the way in which Viktor Orbán and the police handled it shows the state of Hungarian democracy today.

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21 comments

  1. orban vona morvay etc can not escape their legacy in the pages of the sad history of hungary.
    they will be in the docket of courts of future history.
    their supporters will raise more generation of frustrated children who will be like their parents.
    hardened patriots, in conflict with decency and truth.
    there are other great people in hungary, patriots of nobility: deak, jaszi, bibo, szegfu….
    please follow and read them.

  2. The problem is not new. During the 1990ies the SZDSZ advocated no restriction whatsoever on the right to demonstrate and absolute freedom of opinion. SZDSZ leader János Kis wanted to have freedom for Nazidiscourse. (see a debate in Népszabadság in 1996)
    They imagined Hungary to need a first amendment. Advice to legislate laws like in Austria forbidding nazi activities were rejected.
    In Austria we have laws rejecting those activities. In Hungary the leader decides a few weeks before the conference of the WJC to give an order to stop the activities of those motorist. No wonder, the nazi motorists make an appeal to a court.
    Will they also ban the riotous “antibolshevik” and “antizionist” assembly of reformed clergyman Lóránt Hegedüs jun during that conference?

  3. News: The Chair of the Media Authority, 51, died of cancer today. Orban can now appoint a new person for 9 years.

  4. tappanch :
    News: The Chair of the Media Authority, 51, died of cancer today. Orban can now appoint a new person for 9 years.

    Well, for some convenient reason, they left out from most obituaries the fact that she was the founder/owner/publisher of one of the first sex/porn magazines of free Hungary. For a teacher and a the head of of a government institution that is responsible to make judgements on moralistic, ethical, and legal point of view, her “in all respect professionally competence”should include this important fact together with her other experiences that made her suitable for this position.

  5. According to press reports, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, on April 9 in a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orban thanked him writing “We want to express our appreciation for your quick action to prevent an egregious insult to the Hungarian Jewish Community, to all participants in the March of the Living in Budapest on April 21, and to Jews throughout the world.”

  6. Csaba K. Zoltani :

    According to press reports, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, on April 9 in a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orban thanked him writing “We want to express our appreciation for your quick action to prevent an egregious insult to the Hungarian Jewish Community, to all participants in the March of the Living in Budapest on April 21, and to Jews throughout the world.”

    Unfortunately that doesn’t make the ban lawful.

  7. Csaba K. Zoltani :
    According to press reports, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, on April 9 in a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orban thanked him writing “We want to express our appreciation for your quick action to prevent an egregious insult to the Hungarian Jewish Community, to all participants in the March of the Living in Budapest on April 21, and to Jews throughout the world.”

    At first, a few days earlier, he wanted to send the letter to the ministry of interior, Sandor Pinter, but then he just scratched out the name …

  8. tappanch :
    News: The Chair of the Media Authority, 51, died of cancer today. Orban can now appoint a new person for 9 years.

    This is Planet Hungary … the poor girl is still on ice, but the rumor mill already has started.

    Guess who is the possible successor? Mr Istvan Böröcz, the director the MTVA (Public Media Fund). Ex III/3 agent (commie rat), the master cheater of the Royal Hungarian Media, responsible for the notorious alterations in the news. Remember the “retouched” out faces in the videos? This is the guy who terrorizes the demonstrators in front of the MTVA building. Yeah! That Böröcz.

  9. Mutt :

    tappanch :
    News: The Chair of the Media Authority, 51, died of cancer today. Orban can now appoint a new person for 9 years.

    This is Planet Hungary … the poor girl is still on ice, but the rumor mill already has started.
    Guess who is the possible successor? Mr Istvan Böröcz, the director the MTVA (Public Media Fund). Ex III/3 agent (commie rat), the master cheater of the Royal Hungarian Media, responsible for the notorious alterations in the news. Remember the “retouched” out faces in the videos? This is the guy who terrorizes the demonstrators in front of the MTVA building. Yeah! That Böröcz.

    Well, that is a great follow up after a sex magazine publisher. THey can not appoint Ferenc Szabo, the the murderer who “protected” the Fidesz headquarters from the university students after all. He is not a Fidesz member.

  10. Mutt :

    tappanch :News: The Chair of the Media Authority, 51, died of cancer today. Orban can now appoint a new person for 9 years.

    This is Planet Hungary … the poor girl is still on ice, but the rumor mill already has started.
    Guess who is the possible successor? Mr Istvan Böröcz, the director the MTVA (Public Media Fund). Ex III/3 agent (commie rat), the master cheater of the Royal Hungarian Media, responsible for the notorious alterations in the news. Remember the “retouched” out faces in the videos? This is the guy who terrorizes the demonstrators in front of the MTVA building. Yeah! That Böröcz.

    It is not Planet Hungary it is Orbanistan!

  11. The funny part is that most people celebrated Orban’s order to ban the demonstration. Some even want to invite him to participate in the March. Sad reaction.

  12. tappanch :
    Barroso’s letter to Orban
    Concerns:
    powers given to the President of the National Office for the judiciary to transfer cases;
    restrictions on the publication of political advertisements.

    … and Orban has already responded, saying “… the Hungarian government and the parliament is standing firmly behind the values and norms of the European Union.”

    I think it is Orban’s “out-of-office” email …

  13. Some1: Seriously? Why are you so obsessed with this porn issue now that she’s dead, did you like that particular edition or what? I didn’t like her more than you do, I think she was one of the most arrogant typical Orbanites but that porn magazine is not the most important aspect of her life and “heritage”. As far as I can tell she wasn’t exactly porn friendly during her tenure. Please don’t be like Fox news.

  14. Mutt: “I think it is Orban’s “out-of-office” email …”

    Yeah, Fidesz template for international calls 🙂

    Thomas: “The funny part is that most people celebrated Orban’s order to ban the demonstration. Some even want to invite him to participate in the March. Sad reaction.”

    Because the pro-jewish organizations are not exactly democratically minded either. This spectacularly shows the pathology of the Hungarian psyche. Everybody is very insistent about their own democratic rights but less enthusiastic about others’. Despite what Eva thinks, I think it’s very possible that Orbán will participate in the march, it will be an excellent PR opportunity.

  15. It was not only the ADL but the ambassador of Israel which welcomed the ban. (Although Israel is probably not the best example in human or civil rights).

    Other than that Orbán knows that people when it is about their own interests do not care about rights, law, constitution. People want to pursue their short term intersts. They don’t care about other issues. Hence if I want cheaper electricity I will support any decision that makes it cheaper however bad the consequences are.

    Same with the ban.

    But the best Orbán and Fidesz like is to make a fool of the liberals.

    The Give Gas demonstartion was allowed based on the freedom of expression (even if something is distastful or arrogant or mean, people need to suffer in the name of freedom of expression, so Orbán and the state protected it when allowing this demonstration).

    But now liberals want their March of Life protected againt Give Gas’.

    Orbán did it, protected the March of Life, now there is a problem with it.

    So, he says, it is another evidence, that you just can’t satisfy the liberals, they are always complaining. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  16. Orbán banned two years ago a tibetan demonstration. So this time he wanted as part of his peacock dance to show sensitivity, which this government is sadly lacking.
    The historian Romsics is right, Hungary is still a democracy but on it’s way to become authoritarian. Orbán has to give an order, because according to the laws and according to the wishes of the liberals there must be freedom for nazi speech in Hungary.
    I have explained why Austria needs laws banning nazi activity.
    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/journal/index.php?journal_id=10&article_id=40
    Hungarian liberals can’t be proud about their achievment: there is absolute liberty for nazi discourse. This was the topic of a debate in Népszabadság in 1996 and Hungarian liberals advocated absolute liberty for nazis because they believed the Hungarian society will be strong enough to give an adequate reply. They were mistaken.

  17. London Calling!

    Jano One of the best qualities a leader can have is to be able to pick a team – pick the right person.

    Orban picked the head of the Media Authority. Someone endowed with enormous power.

    Apart from the fact that, in a democracy, the Prime Minister should not be choosing who does or does not pick the head – he picked a wrong person.

    Unequivocally.

    To head a Media Authority takes integrity and professionalism of the sort that is not acquired by someone in the porn industry.

    The porn industry is one which exploits people for gain – particularly women – and is an odious ‘profession’.

    That someone so close to that industry should be running a Media Regulator is just wrong. It is not an obsession thing; it is not a religious thing.

    It is a decent democracy thing.

    Unequivocally.

    Regards

    Charlie

  18. Sadly, Hungarian liberals deserve their fate.
    They have to try to be more decent than the Orbans and Vonas.
    They liberal leaders have failed our nation.
    The exception is Gyurcsany.
    Unfortunately, he lacked a PR defense.
    Their incompetence is matched by the US and EU diplomacy.
    I would like to nominate Kim Lane Scheppele to World President, and Eva S. Balogh to World Vice President.
    Save us from Orban.

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