A Global Fight for Equality: Confronting Hate in Budapest to Empower an Oppressed Nation

Published: October 27, 2011

Budapest’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride march had just concluded. Jeered and taunted by hecklers — most chanting, "Kill the fags! Kill the Jews!" — marchers had peacefully walked along Andrássy út (Boulevard) from H?sök tere, Heroes’ Square, to Constitutional Square, one block from Hungary’s Parliament. The previous year, the protests were so intense that police canceled the march.

Stuart Milk, nephew of slain San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk and co-creator of the Milk Foundation, had spoken to the marchers at the outset, offering hope and encouragement.

Joined by a group of 5,000, only about 15 to 20 percent of the marchers were Hungarian, while the rest were from neighboring countries. Some had clothes covering their face — one would assume that the masked marchers were part of the Hungarian minority. Stuart pointed out the difference between the large grey wall of anger and hate, the protestors, against our colorful wave of diversity, love and authenticity.

Now, at the end of the exhilarating and exhausting day, the two of us decided to return to our hotel.

I joined Stuart, a pioneer in his own right, much like his late uncle, in Hungary to offer support and assist with the Hungarian press.

To get to the hotel, we had to leave the route of the march and head down a narrow side street and pass through fencing that had been erected ostensibly to protect marchers.

Seven policemen in riot gear holding guns stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the fencing. The festering buildings on opposite sides stood tall and dark. They let us pass.

Half a dozen teenagers were standing in the street to our left. The four skin-headed males wore the black cargo pants, black vest and red-and-white-striped kerchiefs of the Hungarian Guard, a wing of the far-right Jobbik political party. One of them brandished a chain.

These were the protesters we’d heard chanting, whom we’d seen from a distance. Now they were a few feet away, regarding us with both malice and menace.

"We will see hate-fueled protestors today, but we have something they do not: courage," Stuart said in his speech.

"My uncle, Harvey Milk, gave his life 32 years ago, knowing only that he had the dream that young gays, lesbians and transgenders will hear his story, and through that story they will have hope."

Except now we were seeing them a little too closely.

We kept our heads facing forward as we walked along the sidewalk, but it took only one sideward glance to see that we were being followed.

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