Ghetto Logic: the Hungarian Police in Hejoszalonta

by Tünde Virág
The ghost of Jobbik is haunting the villages of Northern Hungary. Lak, Gyöngyöspata and now Hejőszalonta, all in two months. The reason for their presence and demonstration is always the same: protecting the elderly Hungarian inhabitants from the trouble-maker, useless gypsies. What is more, the latest demonstration was put on explicitly against ‘gypsy terror’. What is common in these villages, why does Jobbik choose them?

All three settlements are very poor. People who live there, both gypsy and non-gypsy hardly have jobs, if at all. Everyday life is burdened by poverty and the tensions of deprivation. There are hundreds of villages of this sort in the country, and if gypsies live there too, the public opinion is easily turned against them. Decades of living peacefully side by side, shared workplaces, childhood experiences and playing football together are all easily forgotten.

Murders were committed in Lak and Hejőszalonta,

which is unforgiveable and shock everyone. When no court decision has been reached yet and the investigations have not even been closed, Jobbik already knew who the murderers were and said the judgment out loud. Who perpetrators really were and why they did these monstrosities were not questioned – only their ethnic origin mattered. During the first few days after the murder they immediately stated, without any doubts, that the perpetrators could only be gypsies. Who else.

If murder happens in a village, everyone gets scared. Everyone double checks if the doors are closed at night and wakes up to any noise or bark for weeks to come. And of course, gossip starts, guessing who the perpetrator could be. In a village, where everybody knows each other, people see each other every day in the pub and the shop. It is hard to imagine that anyone, with whom we may have stood in the line together at the post office yesterday, killed someone the day before. Jobbik marches into this extremely sensitive and tense situation, with its Arpád’s stripes flags, Guard uniforms and torches, claiming and shouting that the murderers live in the gypsy neighborhood.

Nobody called Jobbik to either Lak, or Hejőszalonta.

They just went. To make tensions worse. And they will keep going until they find one village out of the many hundreds where they can tease the local non-gypsies to the point of attacking those in the gypsy neighborhood. Sooner or later they will find one.

Together with the officially banned, but in fact very lively Guard and other uniformed organizations, Jobbik challenge not only the state’s monopoly of violence, but – with their statements about the murders – the monopoly of justice as well. And the state, the government lets them. Why is that? What happened in Hejőszalonta on Saturday afternoon?

Jobbik is on the sports field in the village, civilians in the gypsy neighborhood at the edge of the village. Police on alert. Civilians organized themselves through Facebook – a nightmare of current dictators – to protect the local gypsies from Jobbik’s harassment with their presence and public involvement. Civilians and rights advocates did come – not too many though, so they easily fit in the gypsy area. What really shows the novelty and strength of the joint action is that the protestors were no longer the ‘Budapest intellectuals’ only. I didn’t count them and I might be wrong, but there might have been more of those young intellectuals, mostly gypsy, who live and work in villages similar to Lak, they know and and support each other. Their joint action and organization mean a lot more, because it shows that in various villages more and more communities of gypsies are formed, which are trying to protect themselves and stand up for their rights using their own voice and presence.

Saturday afternoon,

only getting access to the gypsy neighborhood was slightly difficult. The ‘gypsy neighborhood’ of Hejőszalonta is the last street of the village, like in almost any village in Hungary. In most of them, like here, gypsy families live in other parts of the town too, but there is always a need to appoint a place as the ‘gypsy quarter’, which people know about, forget in good times, and then rediscover. So that it is easy to identify that it is ‘those’ living there. Simple ghetto logic. Easy to surround and close down, which is what our police did on Saturday. The ‘gypsy neighborhood was closed and secured by the police. They stopped everyone who wanted to get in to the town and inquired which demonstration they wanted to join. So that they wouldn’t go to the wrong one. Politely and nicely.

Still, there was something creepy about the fact that the local gypsies and the sympathizers were waiting for the outcome of this evening at the edge of the village, cordoned off in a ‘cage’. Music and some chatting with friends not seen for long time or new acquaintances somewhat eased the tension, but the presence of the police and the cordons were more upsetting than reassuring. Who are they protecting from whom? They were probably protecting the civilians, activists, and press more than the local gypsies. If a gypsy in a village is slapped in the face or chased into his house by a whip, it’s no news, it’s no big deal for anyone in Hungary today. But – if it’s someone from the press, especially if they have contacts with press abroad, now that would be a bit awkward. So the torch-lit Jobbik demonstrators didn’t even need words to terrify – although there were enough of that too – but their presence and the march per se was enough.

This says a lot about us and our country,

that Jobbik is marching with torches, shouting openly racist slogans, verbally harassing and humiliating those behind the cordons and they are doing all this with police protection. Because the police’s orders were not to break up the protest and arrest the leaders of those semi-military organizations, which are openly trying to take over the tasks of the police and create order.

This Saturday afternoon was about of the weakness of the Hungarian state and government. It showed that today, Jobbik can say and do anything in Hungarian villages. While the government is messing around with the new constitution, Jobbik is questioning basic rights. The state left these places, the whole Northern part of Hungary, a long time ago, leaving behind social problems and making the locals solve all the conflicts arising from these. And although the locals are not asking for Jobbik’s help, it is loudly offering the easiest solution, always and everywhere.

For the original article go to:

Translated by L.B.

3 Comments on “Ghetto Logic: the Hungarian Police in Hejoszalonta”

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