EUOBSERVER / HEJOSZALONTA & BUDAPEST – A gypsy girl of maybe eight, nine years old holds onto her little brother tightly. Looking out over the chicken-wire fence at the end of their mud garden in the Roma ghetto in the village of Hejoszalonta, they stare at the around 600 members of Hungary’s fascist party, Jobbik, and its paramilitary wing, the Magyar Garda, dressed in black or camouflage or just leather jackets, marching right past where they live with torches aloft and nationalist heavy metal music blasting.
An hour and a half north of Budapest, the village, home to just 850 people, 350 of them Roma, was the site last week of the murder of a 50-year-old woman. Jobbik immediately exploited the crime, declaring ahead of any arrest of suspects that the woman’s two Roma tenants were guilty and announced they were to come to the village and protect it from “gypsy terror”.
As the jack-booted marchers file past, Roma-rights activist Agnes Daroczi leads villagers in a chant from behind police lines that for all its moderation and reasonableness is shouted with no less ferocity: “Peace! Rule of Law! No fascists!’
The protest, which took place on Saturday (2 April), is the second such demonstration by the far-right vigilantes in a month. At the beginning of March, Jobbik and its allied blackshirts went to the village of Gyongyospata, also claiming to protect it from the crimes allegedly perpetrated by their Roma inhabitants. There the numbers were larger. According to human rights groups, quoting the local community, some 2-3000 marched repeatedly up and down the streets of the town with torches and whips.
According human rights activist Judit Kende, the Roma of Gyongyospata strained to keep their teenaged boys away from the marches, scared that the mix of their fury, humiliation and hormones would push them to lash out.
“Jobbik were deliberately provoking them. Parents held the teenagers back because the fascists wanted an excuse to attack. It would have been a bloodbath,” Kende told EUobserver at the far end of the Roma ghetto in Hejoszalonta, where the community had been herded by police to allow the march to take place and a counter-protest had been mounted of perhaps a hundred locals and a clutch of human rights campaigners from Amnesty International, domestic civil liberties group Tasz and members from a new activist political party, the European-Green-Party-linked LMP.