The party was obvious – a mix of lots of people, lots of noise, a sense of collective purpose and the beating sun.
As for the protest – it was signaled to Hungary’s adoption of new rules to restrict what the government calls “homosexual propaganda”.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he is protecting traditional family values by reducing the portrayal of LGBT + issues in schools and on broadcast channels.
Many others say it’s just a cynical exercise to appeal to the grassroots instincts of rural voters ahead of next year’s general election.
Thus, during today’s march, we had posters of Mr. Orban, represented in the colors of the rainbow, and banners complaining and protesting against the new laws. People told us they felt threatened and stigmatized.
Almost everyone we spoke to felt it was, indeed, a political decision, with more than one assuring me the PM had gay friends, but embraced the allure of homophobia. in the face of indifferent poll results.
Among the crowd were politicians from other countries. British Ambassador to Hungary Paul Fox was here handing out flags featuring a rainbow version of a half Union flag and the words ‘Love is great’.
As a publicity stunt it worked – we saw hundreds of these flags during the day.
Then there were politicians from all over Europe, including Irish MEP Maria Walsh. As we spoke before the march, she told me that she sympathized with anyone who wondered why the EU was not doing more to put the brakes on Mr Orban.
“Enough has to be enough,” she said. “We cannot continue to talk about the buzzword of solidarity without really implementing it in the rooms and around the tables that matter.
“Orban is just getting started, you know, he’s built a foundation that he can lean on and then we’re going to see more and more rollbacks and… so how can I even wear a mask or a European flag? and say everyone is equal because it is not. “
The march meandered through the city. The police presence was important, but also discreet. They weren’t exactly joining the party, but they weren’t threatening anyone either. To be fair, the police seemed mostly bored.
The only job they had was to separate the marchers from a few counter-demonstrations.
There weren’t many people at either, but they were loud and belligerent. When I spoke to some of these protesters, gall flowed from their words, with whimsical stories of kindergarten children being pushed into homosexuality or forced into sex changes.
This is, according to one of the protesters, Edda Budahazy, the kind of thing that has happened in the UK “and we don’t want to be like you”.
“We want to stay Hungarian. Our whole history is full of struggles for our freedom, so we don’t want this gender ideology.
“If someone is gay, I don’t do anything but I’m against the person doing gay propaganda, against children, in school, in kindergarten. This is what we are against, not gay people. I’m sorry for them. “
It is, on the one hand, absurd. But on the other hand, it reflects the feeling among many Hungarians, especially those outside the big cities, that the fabric of the country is threatened by the forces of change. And that’s what Mr. Orban eats.
So it could be migrants, or maybe western liberal values, or maybe Brussels bureaucrats or, like today, the concept of LGBT + activists brainwashing children.
As ridiculous as it sounds, it resonates with voters, especially rural ones. And Mr Orban, who has been in power for more than a decade, has a general election next year.
As the walk drew to a close, we chatted with some of those who had been walking for hours. There was that familiar mixture of fun for the day and fear for the future. For some, this fear is very pressing.
Judit Mezö-Krizsa had paraded with her partner Lilla. She believes they will now be forced to leave the country.
“It’s really sad we’re just normal people and we have to leave our country because if I imagine myself in five or years living here and getting all this hate, getting all this negative environment… we’re just very sad about this and we are just considering leaving the country as soon as possible. ”