Head of the Roma government Gabor Varadi told MTI that the protest, dubbed as a “march for the homeland and democracy”, was intended as a warning against hatred, segregation, and efforts to stigmatise the Roma as scapegoats for problems. The message for politicians is that they must stop using the Roma as a tool to achieve their own purposes, Varadi added.
The march ended in a rally in the city centre addressed by Aladar Horvath, head of the Civic Rights Movement for the Republic. He said that Roma Parliament plans to adopt a document on basic Roma rights, which would state that Hungary’s Basic Law should declare that gap-reducing is an urgent task. He said within ten to fifteen years the employment rate among the Roma population should be caught up to the level of the non-Roma.
“When Roma become self-respecting taxpayers, there will be no more room for neo-Nazi ideas,” he said.
Horvath said that while in democratic countries the radical right is not allowed anywhere near power, in Hungary it is not them but the Roma who are segregated.
The radical nationalist Jobbik party and leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) also held demonstrations in Miskolc’s Avas suburb on the same day.
Around 400-500 supporters gathered for Jobbik’s demo, held in reaction to what they see as bad public security in the Avas district, which has nearly 40,000 inhabitants.
Jobbik leader Gabor Vona told MTI that the focus of the party’s demonstration was “problems in the coexistence of Roma and non-Roma” and added that many in the Avas area felt threatened by people who have recently moved into the neighbourhood.
“But Jobbik could have gone anywhere, the problems seen in Miskolc’s Avas are there everywhere,” he said, adding that the social situation, the deterioration of public safety and poverty were characteristic of the whole country.
Miskolc Mayor Akos Kriza told a press conference on Wednesday that the demonstrations were motivated by “political profiteering”.
The mayor said that under a housing programme of the previous, Socialist governments, hundreds of families moved into a housing estate in the Avas area, people who made no effort to fit in and whose behaviours scandalised local residents. He added, however, that the situation had improved through the city’s efforts during the past one or two years, and those “marching up and down” in the city will compromise the achievements.
“There has been and there will be peace and order in Miskolc,” the mayor said.
DK, founded by former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, held a protest with some 150 people including MPs Agnes Vadai and Csaba Molnar attending.
Speakers at the event said that neither the governing parties nor Jobbik were really interested in resolving the situation in Avas.
Participants held up a “Peace! Calm! Solutions!” sign. Representatives of the party told MTI earlier that extreme expressions must not be allowed, adding that “residents of the Avas housing estate are no criminals; they want peace and solutions for their problems”.