BUDAPEST (JTA) — A crowd of 500 demonstrators, including neo-Nazis and skinheads, rampaged in Budapest’s Jewish district.
Hungarian riot police deployed tear gas and baton charges Saturday against the vociferously xenophobic crowd as it tried to disrupt Hungary’s annual Gay Pride parade.
More than 30 arrests were made on charges including possession of offensive weapons and riotous behavior. Heightened surveillance was enforced throughout the day to prevent a recurrence of the mayhem that ended last year‘s parade, in which there were more than a dozen serious injuries, according to Éva Tafferner, press officer at Budapest police headquarters.
The rioters invaded the heart of the traditional Jewish Ghetto District, started a small fire, tore down signs and shouted threatening anti-Semitic vitriol. The attacks were witnessed by families of foreign Jews visiting the district for the Budapest Jewish Cultural Festival.
One British tourist trying to argue with the rioters at the edge of the ghetto had to be rescued by police when he was verbally abused and physically assaulted by a gang of 20 attackers. A policeman who tried to break up a confrontation not far from there was knocked to the ground and kicked, as was a woman displaying a Gay Pride T-shirt while standing alone at a tram stop.
The parade drew support from artists, politicians and human rights organizations in many countries. An anti-fascist organization in neighboring Austria sent busloads of activists who marched beneath a giant rainbow flag.
Former Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, who took part in the parade, declared that “All free citizens must defend human rights.”