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March of the Living for historical remembrance and solidarity. Critical Mass for a renewed and liveable city. And both events on the first warm and sunny days of the spring. After a long, cold winter, could this be a sign of hope for more normalcy in Hungarian public life?
March of the Living and Critical Mass – could these events signal a revival of common sense and normality after a long, cold and gray winter crowded with political clashes?
The March of the Living took place on April 21. It is the largest demonstration of Jewish youth from all over the world protesting the denial of the Holocaust. The march was held for the eleventh time in Budapest, and in this region of Europe, the remembrance of the complex tragedies of World War II often gets mixed up with political debates. If only we could avoid them in the name of pure, common sense.
This year, a rather unknown circle of radical, right-wing motorcyclists (not more than a dozen people) wanted to take a tour around the inner city on the very day of the March of the Living under the slogan Adj gázt! (which translates as Give gas!). This deliberate and outrageous provocation set off a debate in Hungary on whether the group should be allowed to hold its offensive event, whether freedom of expression or the prohibition of hate speech should take precedence. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán finally ordered the minister of interior to take necessary precautions to ensure that the motorcyclists' parade would not cause problems, and finally the police and the court also decided not to let the radical right-wingers disturb the March of the Living. Ultimately, the march ended peacefully, with thousands of people remembering the victims of the Holocaust and those people who helped the Jewish community in the darkest hour of history. Zoltán Balog, a minister of the Orbán-government, Antal Rogán, parliamentary group leader of the governing Fidesz party, Attila Mesterházy, president of the opposition Socialists and ex-Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai also took part in the event.
Even a former radical right-winger marched with the others: Károly Fafula was a member of the far-right Jobbik party, who - after reading the Bible and Christian teachings - turned away from the radical movement. Attending the March of the Living for the first time, he now provides assistance to Roma people.(Video report on Index)
Another large community event of Budapest was held for the last time: the Critical Mass. Budapest's annual demonstration for bicyclists grew into one of the largest among the international Critical Mass movements, where tens of thousands of bicyclists gathered to enjoy the ride and to support the idea of bicycling in big cities. The organizers say that Critical Mass has reached its goal in Budapest: the cyclists are on the streets, and now it's time to focus on the day-to-day professional work and collaboration with decision-makers in the urban planning of Budapest.
In the end: the 16 kilometer-long bicycle tour around the quiet inner city of Budapest and on the shores of the Danube in the beautiful spring weather was so superb that most bicyclists would happily see yet more Critical Masses in the future. Spring is the time of hope. So we hope.
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