By BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary’s parliament has approved a modified plan to ban the public display of Nazi and Communist symbols, after thousands of Hungarians commemorated the victims of the Holocaust and expressed concern about rising antisemitism in the country.
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Fining people displaying symbols such as the swastika or red star was declared unconstitutional by the country’s top court in February as the measure was found to be too broad and an “excessive restriction” on freedom of speech.
The court decision followed a similar ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
But lawmakers, who passed the plan Monday, April 22, by a 320-6 vote with two abstentions, believe the clarified rules will pass any test by the Constitutional Court.
To ensure approval, the Court’s powers were significantly reduced by legislators loyal to the center right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who critics perceive as increasingly autocratic.
There have been concerns that the Holocaust — in which 600,000 Hungarian Jews were singled out to die by German Nazis and Hungarians working with them — is mixed unfairly with the different Communist-era.
Monday’s vote came hours after several hundred protesters marched from Budapest Heroes’ Square to Parliament demanding that the government does more for those who took out loans in foreign currency.
Some were seen waving the Árpád-stripe flags, which recall the banner used by Hungary’s Nazi-allied government in 1944-45. The marchers held signs bearing messages such as “We don’t need a bank-puppet government.”
The protest was joined by members of the far-right National-Hearted Motorcyclists, who had been planning a protest of their own for Sunday, March 21, that would have ridiculed victims of the Holocaust and those remembering them.
Police prevented the bikers from holding the rally, which was originally to be held under the banner “give gas” and pass a synagogue and other Jewish sites.
Yet, some far-right protesters still managed to disturb the ‘March of the Living’ Sunday, April 21, in which thousands of Hungarians recalled all victims of the systematic genocide during War World Two and expressed concern about rising antisemitism here.
The route of the parade, the temporarily car-less Carl Lutz Rakpart, was chosen for its namesake’s heroic efforts in helping to save tens of thousands of Jews from being sent to Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.
There were reportedly some isolated scuffles with far-right protesters while at least one counter-demonstrator unfurled a white and red banner over Budapest’s Margaret Bridge, prompting the crowd to shout “Go home, Nazi.”
It wasn’t as bad as previous years when Vilmos Hanti, former chairman of the Association of Hungarian Partisans and Anti-Fascists (MEASZ), said he was struck in the face by a protester. He also heard shouts of “filthy Jews” and “the train is going to Auschwitz”.
Though representatives from the government and other parties participated in Sunday’s march, Hungary’s Orbán is under pressure to do more to tackle extremism after several threats and attacks against the Jewish and minority Roma communities, while several Holocaust memorial sites and Jewish graves were vandalized.
Orbán is expected to give a keynote speech in May when the World Jewish Congress (WJC) will gather in Budapest to discuss issues impacting Jews globally, including what it calls “the alarming rise of neo-Nazi political parties in several European, and other, countries.” and tensions in the Middle East.
Some 500 delegates and observers from the WJC’s affiliated Jewish communities and groups in 100 countries are expected to convene in the Hungarian capital, organizers said. With at least 100,000 people, Hungary hosts the largest Jewish community in Eastern Europe outside Russia. (With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos in Budapest).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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