Protest and standoff continue at the public service media HQ – Opposition MPs removed from the building by force
Protesters are gathering in front of the public service media’s headquarters Monday evening. Five to ten thousand people demonstrated on Sunday against the Orban government, and the demonstration ended with a few thousand protesters walking to the public service channel’s headquarters in an industrial suburb. Several opposition members of Parliament entered the building, trying to get air time to read their demands. They were denied this request and stayed until the morning when two of them, Ákos Hadházy and Bernadett Szél were forcibly removed from the building by armed security guards. Átlátszó talked to Hadházy who said he is pressing charges for violence against a public official.
Protesters gathered at 3 p.m. at Heroes’ Square Sunday afternoon. Shortly before 4 p.m. the march left the square towards the Parliament building. The march was led by trade unions; opposition parties carrying their flags closely followed.
It was a rare sight in Budapest: the flags of opposition parties MSZP, DK, LMP, Párbeszéd, Momentum and Jobbik were carried side by side.
These parties were too divided to cooperate and join forces back in the spring before the elections.
Thousands of people joined the march on the way to the Parliament; an estimated 5-10 thousand people reached the building where music greeted them. Then a series of speakers took to the stage; at one point female members of opposition parties walked on the stage and made short speeches one after the other. Having a female-only group of politicians talk, all wearing warm white hats and holding hands in the end, was also symbolic.
Later protesters decided to walk to the public service media (MTVA) HQ in northwest Budapest. The building is located about 7 kilometers from the Parliament and the weather was freezing. Protesters reached the building shortly before 9 p.m.; by that time six rows of riot police surrounded the entrance to the building and kept demonstrators from entering.
Our photos from Sunday:
Opposition MPs Ákos Hadházy, Bernadett Szél, Ágnes Kunhalmi and Ágnes Vadai entered the building – as members of Parliament they are free to inspect any public building, thus they were allowed to enter.
They had a list of five demands that they wanted to read on air, but they were not allowed to read them. Their demands were the following: 1. repeal the ’slave law’ 2. no more overtime work for police than the amount allowed by EU regulations, 3. independent judiciary, 4. Hungary should join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, 5. independent and unbiased public service media.
MPs argued with security staff of the TV for a long time, while protesters tried to push their way through riot police, unsuccessfully. Police used tear gas to push the protesters back.
Members of Parliament inside the building were live streaming the events continuously. Bernadett Szél’s live stream was broadcasting early in the morning when Ákos Hadházy tried to enter a studio to read their demands but armed security guards tackled him.
Later Hadházy and Szél were both forcibly removed from the building, with thousands following the events live on Facebook.
Later in the day more MPs and MEPs arrived and entered the building. The doors being blocked by security guards, some of them entered by climbing the fence of the studio and using a back door.
The standoff between MPs and MTVA security and management continues. MPs want police to help them practice their right to inspect public buildings.
At the same time, MTVA wants police to help them enforce a decree by the local clerk that orders the MPs to leave the premises.
Hadházy: ‘humiliating and disturbing’ experience
’I am feeling better now, though I am very tired and shocked by the events’ Ákos Hadházy told Átlátszó in the morning, a few hours after he was removed from the building. ’It is very hard to describe my feelings, such an event is very humiliating and disturbing.
I did not expect this, I was expecting some degree of restraint from those in power but that did not happen - he said.
Hadházy said that the events prove two things for him. First, that it is a good choice to protest at the public service TV, as that is ’one of the most important bastions’ of the government’s power. Hadházy thinks that what happened to him also proves that the government is scared.
He added that he went to the national police headquarters in the morning to press charges against security guards for violence against a public official.
Hadházy said that he wanted to file a complaint right there at the MTVA headquarters but police only wrote down a few words of what he said then knocked on the door of the building. When nobody answered, they left.
The independent member of Parliament was tackled by security guards after he tried to climb up a flight of stairs using the handrails in the TV building. We asked why he did so and he said his only reason for that was to ask questions.
’The staircase leading towards the newsroom was blocked by security, claiming that the stairs were slippery. In Hungary members of parliament have the right to enter any public building with the caveat that they are not allowed to disturb work there. We only wanted to ask questions, and they illegally kept me from doing this. Being a peace-loving individual, I tried to go around the guards’ he said.
MTVA said it was going to press charges against the opposition MPs who entered the building, who said that they are ready to face the charges.
Hadházy said that he is very grateful to the protesters who made the long walk Sunday night to the MTVA HQ. He added that he will definitely attend the Monday night protest, scheduled to start at 6 pm.
Hungarians protested against the so-called ‘slave law’ in front of the Parliament and across Budapest this week. Thousands went to the streets of Budapest on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night after the Parliament passed a bill that allows employers to request 400 hours of overtime work from employees annually.
Written by Anita Kőműves and Babett Oroszi
Photos by Márk Tremmel, Áron Halász and Szebáld Szakál
Cover photo: protesters in front of MTVA Sunday night. Photo by Márk Tremmel