Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Hungarian riots: developments

by DoDo Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 05:42:52 AM EST

As you may recall, in September the leak of a closed-doors speech by PM Gyurcsány in which he said he lied led to protests and riots by the right-to-far-right. I also reported that protests continued after local elections (both by the far-right and the right), and further mess. Then in the comments of my 1956 series, I reported the 23 October riots, and when protests finally subsided, I looked back with a far-right freakshow in pictures.

I told that the riots were worsened on one side by the involvement of experienced football hooligans, on the other side by police brutality (also applying 'experience' from football riots), and a disgustingly uncritical 'support' for the police afterwards from the 'socialist' and 'liberal' governing parties. In the last day or two, there have been some significant developments on the latter front:

  • There's an internal police report out about the first day of the riots,
  • there is new evidence in the highly publicised case of police brutality against a politician,
  • The rumour about someone having died in police action has been tracked down to its source.
Details below the fold.


An on-going internal police investigation released its first report:
the report on the first riot, the storming of the state TV building on the night of 18/19 September. The names of those responsible are blackened out, but besides and above material and training insufficiencies, it is clear the commanders were totally inept. A map of one stage:

  • MTV=state TV,
  • TÖMEG=crowd (on-lookers, thousands),
  • "Támogató mag"=supporting core (those cheering on, 100-200),
  • "Nagyon agresszív támadó csoportok"=very aggressive attacking groups (rioters, 50-100);
  • red is policemen,
  • you'll recognise the symbols of water cannons.
You see the symbol of those trapped in the building, and you see that a supporting force tried to get there circling the building -- but only on one side, and their water cannon's water ran out...

The report says

  • police leaders failed to make real action plans and acted ad-hoc, their plans seemed the reproduction of blueprints and contained false data;
  • the TV building was missing on the list of buildings to protect, despite protesters' prior threats;
  • information flow to lower-ranked was insufficient, most glaringly, an operation commander for the units around the TV building was chosen but none of the unit leaders learnt of that, and he himself didn't know who everyone should be under his command and gave up trying;
  • most damagingly, forces were sent uncoordinated, leading to disintegration of units one by one, and even to silly episodes like a unit holding back the rioters on the front stairs being water-gunned by a unit inside the building...

Evidence on the police beating-up of an opposition MP.
As I reported, on 23 October, police pursued rioters 'into' the dispersing crowd of a rally by right-populist main opposition party Fidesz, and in the course of this, a Fidesz leader, Márusz Révész was rubber-bulleted unconscious and/or beaten with batons.

This case developed into an ugly controversy. On one hand, after the initial barely self-aware hospital interview, Révész switched into politician mode, and sought to get the most out of his case -- including wearing his bandages when it was no longer necessary, leading to accusations of faking from the government side. Meanwhile, selective leaks of police tapes implied that police in fact tried to hold back the crowd and called Fidesz leaders to get their protesters out of the way, leading to paranoid government-side claims that Fidesz wanted trouble on their crowd so that police and government can be demonised.

However, now a foreigner sent an amateur video to the attorney of Révész, which confirms the version witnesses told to Révész (who himself suffers from amnesia): it reportedly shows Révész approaching the policemen and protesting while showing his Member of Parliament card (which ensures immunity by law), but the policemen surround him and then beat him up, stopping only when a photographer approached.

Was someone killed on 23 October?
On the last day of riots, rumours spread that a young girl died from the effects of tear gas. Internet news site Index tried to track down the origin, and found it: a man who claimed his daughter died in the events, and got a compensation of €1,200 from his Austro-Hungarian firm. The man wouldn't tell details to the press, and there is no trace of the dead girl in hospital or cemetery records, so this is most likely an insurance fraud...



I note I am personally very dismayed at the law-and-order-ist turn of the nominal Left and its supporters -- including close friends and relatives, with whom I had the most bizarre heated debates... But this is what you get in a 'cold civil war'.

Display:
By the way, I will finish the last 1956 diary, which also covers the revolution's role in post-1989 Hungarian politics, in a few days.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 05:43:21 AM EST
Thanks for keeping us updated on this, DoDo.  It's simultaneously horrifying and fascinating.  There really doesn't seem to be anyone (group or individual) who's coming out of this looking good.

Should we read anything positive into the fact that the police internal investigation (a) appears to be rigorous, timely and self-critical, and (b) is being made public?  Because here, even if (b) might be true, (a) would never be.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 06:52:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we could read both (a) and (b) into it, though note:

  • the investigation was done by the national police, and the culprits are likely to be found in the (rather autonomous) Budapest police -- so it's more like one police branch finding it easy to criticise another;
  • maybe this investigation could have been done back in September;
  • I didn't mention that all the criticism is mentioned in a kind of implicite fashion -- this is an investigation was meant as analysis for decisionmakers and not as judgement, and I also note the report praises policemen in general terms throughout;
  • No names were made public.

There really doesn't seem to be anyone (group or individual) who's coming out of this looking good.

Indeed, except for humanitarian NGOs who do some legal work and protest. But it is next to impossible to convince anyone from one cold civil war side that their side is wrong and immoral too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 07:01:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So nobody is going to be held accountable for either the police brutality or the sacking of the TV building?

But it is next to impossible to convince anyone from one cold civil war side that their side is wrong and immoral too.

True.  Anywhere.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 07:08:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So nobody is going to be held accountable for either the police brutality or the sacking of the TV building?

I didn't say that. For the storming of the building, of course a lot of captured rioters stand trial. For failing to prevent the storming, it remains to be seen what decisionmakers decide -- and the very existence of the investigation shows that the government and police leadership was forced back from complete denial and wants to 'come clean' to some extent, we'll see how far it goes. For police brutality, a number of policemen have been indicted (largely thanks to the work by said NGOs), but as I wrote in earlier diaries, the main problem was the law-breaking practice of taking off identifying numbers from policemen's helmets.

True.  Anywhere.

I'd disagree here. It wasn't as bad here nine, or even just five years ago. And while the USA has a two-party system with similar symptoms, people from differing political backgrounds can be critical of their side and get along and even talk politics between friends from different camps in most other Western countries, say Germany.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 07:19:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It wasn't as bad here nine, or even just five years ago.

What reasons can you suggest for the decay?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 09:20:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Essentially, the move towards the bipartisan system, pushed on by the combined Rovian-Berlusconian-Tudjmanian tactics of one political power. Read the earlier pieces of my Hungary diaries, in particular this introductory one and this one where I'm vailing about the two-party system.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 09:46:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To demonstrate what this means on the 'left' side, the two worst in recent discussions I had, both with older ladies who are lifelong liberals:

  • One volunteered that it would have been okay with her if a few of 'the rabble' had paid for causing this much trouble with their lives.

  • Another, when I brought up the case of a state TV reporter who was beaten twice by two different police squads during the last police storming during live coverage (on the telephone, unfortunately not the picture), said the journalist must have deserved it with something.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 07:09:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]