Thoughts for Pride II – the struggle elsewhere

This is where we were

This is where we were

This time last year most of the Paintbrush Collective and various associates were visiting Budapest and enjoying a few days of baths, bikes, and Communist statues.

Everything was going well. The sun was shining; the beer was cheap; the Unicum was disgusting; and the comradeship was of the greatest quality.

I remember we were sitting in a cafe close to Heroes’ Square in central Budapest having a well-deserved rest after an arduous morning doing something or another when we noticed that the police were erecting metal fences in the street around us. In-fact access to the main thoroughfare of Andrassy Avenue was blocked off by multiple rows of these barriers.

Taking the hint that something might be going on, one of the more enterprising members of our group asked a nearby police officer what was happening. She was told that Budapest’s gay pride march was taking place and it was supposed to be ending at Heroes’ Square shortly.

My own experience of gay pride activities had been minimal but I associated them with carnival-like atmospheres, people wearing outlandish costumes and generally having fun. Sticking around to watch the parade therefore seemed like a good idea.

I must confess that my knowledge of the gay rights situation in former Eastern Bloc countries was not great. However, I assumed that since Hungary is a member of the European Union then surely things couldn’t be that bad.

How naive of me. Homosexuality in central and eastern European countries such as Hungary – and indeed even in some longstanding EU member states – remains deeply controversial and can turn politically explosive. Sometimes literally so: a gay club had been firebombed a few days earlier (we weren’t aware of this at the time). The authorities had originally banned the march from going ahead but were apparently persuaded to change their minds after international pressure.

Picture from another blog - we were too busy running away to take any pictures

Picture from another site - we were too busy running away to take any photos

As the band of merry Paintbrushers stood waiting to cheer on the march we realised that more and more skinheads were congregating around us. Now I know that skinheads at a gay pride event aren’t always an unusual sight since the gay skinhead thing took off but these skins were wearing Rock Against Communism and swastika t-shirts. We suspected that they weren’t gay nazis who had come along to celebrate liberal attitudes to sexuality. 

As hundreds and hundreds of skinheads poured into Heroes’ Square from all directions it became clear that we had managed to position ourselves at the precise point where the fash thugs hoped to penetrate the police lines and indulge in a spot of gay-bashing.

I would have been happy to excuse any police brutality that day

When they started pushing over the metal barriers we quickly decided that it would be sensible to reposition ourselves far away from them as quickly as possible. When petrol bombs started being thrown at the police nearby we endeavoured to hasten our pace – we ended up running, not a physical activity normally associated with any of us.

Eventually we got to a part of the city where there weren’t neo-Nazi mobs hiding around every corner (although replacing ‘hiding’ with ‘brazenly looking for police/gay pride marchers to start a fight with’ might be a more accurate description). We all escaped unharmed. 

This adventure taught me several things.

Firstly, it’s all very well to natter on blogs about the importance of physically confronting fascism in the street but, frankly, when they outnumber you fifty to one, and they are massive, and have ‘NAZI’ written across their chest, and seem out for blood, you become less sure of whether this strategy can always be realistically applied.

Secondly, that we have to salute the bravery of those who stand up for gay rights in countries like Hungary. I have little doubt that the nazis we witnessed would have been happy to use extreme violence against the marchers if they had been able to get to them. The marchers still had to put up with having eggs, rotten vegetables and faeces thrown at them, as well as plenty of verbal abuse and intimidation. The police also deserved credit for doing a good job of protecting the marchers and for taking the brunt of the nazi rage (I believe that most of the injured that day were police officers).

And finally it was an eye-opener into the political instability of Hungary. It was terrifying to see that so many far-right extremists could be assembled and to have unrepentent neo-Nazism temporarily dominating the streets of an EU capital city.

It certainly gives me an idea of what Budapest was like in the 2006 riots. It also goes some way to explaining how Jobbik were able to win three seats in the European Parliament and nearly as many votes as the governing socialist party. One of their MEPs has reportedly said:

“I would be greatly pleased if those who call themselves proud Hungarian Jews played in their leisure with their tiny circumcised dicks, instead of besmirching me. Your kind of people are used to seeing all of our kind of people stand to attention and adjust to you every time you fart. Would you kindly acknowledge this is now OVER. We have raised our head up high and we shall no longer tolerate your kind of terror. We shall take back our country.”



Whether it’s a backlash against Europeanisation, Westernisation, or just modernity in general, there are obviously large elements of the Hungarian population turning to extremely reactionary politics. This year’s pride march in Budapest has been postponed, with groups such as Jobbik declaring that they will work to stop the event “by all means necessary”.

Whilst I would never be complacent about the gay rights situation in the UK, learning about what is taking place in countries like Hungary has put a fresh perspective on my outlook. In many ways we are very lucky in this country. We should not forget this; nor should we forget the continuing struggles overseas for the advancement of human rights and social progress when the hatred they face is so widespread and violent.


A video giving an idea of what was happening:

Another video – a German news report with English subtitles (it refers to the thugs wanting to ‘bully’ the marchers where I think the mean to say ‘kill’):

People intimidating the marchers, notice the lorries needed to protect the marchers (I think this may have been filmed by one of the fash!):

Yet another, mainly images of the hundreds of riot police who turned up in the square  (most sensible people didn’t want to risk damaging themselves or their video cameras by getting too close to the action!):

And here’s a call for solidarity from a Hungarian gay rights organisation:

Dear Activists, Gay Pride Organizers, Visitors, Friends,We are the Rainbow Mission Foundation, the organizers of the 14th LGBT Festival in Budapest, Hungary, from 5 to 12 July, 2009.

Our website:

You may have heard that in the last two years Budapest Gay Pride March was attacked by extremists who threw eggs, stones, glasses and verbal insults on the participants. While the Parliament endorsed the act on registered partnership for same-sex couples, which is an important step towards legal equality, radical groups that are acting in an aggressive and intolerant manner against LGBT people (gay bashings, molotov cocktail attacks against gay bars etc.) are becoming stronger and stronger.

In this situation, many gay people are against the pride (the majority of gay enterpreneurs refuse to support the pride any longer). However, we believe that this is the moment when we really must stand up for ourselves. We would like to find as many local and international organizations, groups and people who express solidarity with Hungarian LGBT people as possible. This is why we are reaching out to you. We would like to ask you to express your solidarity with the Gay Pride March and the one-week long cultural festival before. There are several possibilities:

If you and/or some members of your organization could come and be present at the Pride March, that would be an important gesture of support for us. You are all warmly welcome!

Please advertise Budapest LGBT Festival and the Pride March on your website.

Please distribute and put on your website the text below in your own language.

Thank you for your help!

If we can reciprocate your solidarity and help in any way, please let us know!

Rainbow Mission Foundation


Take solidarity with the 14th Budapest Pride! In the past two years the gay festival and pride march suffered atrocities. The organizers are asking for your help. How can you express your solidarity?

1. Come visit Budapest! Let us be a huge crowd! Express your solidarity in person! We warmly welcome everyone at the 14th Budapest Gay Festival (a film and cultural festival) from 5 to 12 July, and especially at the Gay Pride March from 3 pm on 11th, Saturday.

2. Send us a video message! Make a few seconds long video message with camera, skype, etc., which contains the phrase ‘Budapest Pride’ and says that you will be there in person or support us in spirit. We are making a similar spot with Hungarian participants; you can join this project with your video message.

3. Support Budapest LGBT Festival! As we haven’t found enough sponsors, the sustainability of the festival has become endangered. We need a minimum of 10 000 Euros to organize our festival. If there are 500 people to offer 20 Euros each, we will be able to stage the festival. We are happy to receive donations of any size. Donations are easy to send through the PayPal system on our website:

Thank you!


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4 Responses to “Thoughts for Pride II – the struggle elsewhere”

  1. voteredgogreen Says:

    Captain J: this post brought it all back, and a tear to my eye with it. I couldn’t have said a single word better. Thank you.

  2. captainjako Says:

    Of course I wanted to stand and fight, but I was outvoted. *cough*

  3. durbinite Says:

    I was up for fighting as well. Anyone remember who was the main proponent for running away? Also, we got to meet the lovely Zoe!!!!!

  4. captainjako Says:

    Ah Zoe, the source of at least one major argument.

    We basically got to reenact the Battle of Cable Street, except this time the fascists won

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