By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent reporting from Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– One of Europe’s largest music festivals has been overshadowed by weekend extremist violence. Scores of neo-Nazis and far-right activists attempted to storm the Sziget Festival, which ended Monday, August 15 in the Hungarian capital Budapest.
Police detained several demonstrators, including a prominent parliamentarian of the far right Movement for a Better Hungary, Jobbik.
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The incident has underscored international concerns over rising extremism in Hungary.
Riot police forced back far right activists and neo-nazis, who also scuffled with security guards as they tried to break through the fence surrounding the Sziget — or ‘Island’ — Festival on Budapest’s Shipyard Island at the Danube river.
The demonstrators claimed they wanted to enter the Festival site to protest against high fuel prices. But these particular protestors are also known for claiming that the Festival as a Jewish initiative, backed by anti-Hungarian investors.
About 70 members of the extremist ’64 Counties Youth Movement’ tried to break through the police lines, blocking the entrance for visitors to the festival.
They had received backing from Gyula György Zagyva, a parliamentarian belonging to the influential far right party Jobbik.
“You may lose your jobs because of this” the politician shouted while standing in front of a police line. “Who gave you this order to crackdown on the people. Stop it now.” He added the police “can’t touch him because he has parliamentary immunity.”
He was eventually detained however, along with about 10 other activists.
A young festival participant, clearly upset by what had happened, was among the many who were caught up in the clashes. “I hope that everything will be fine. I am very upset that they are demonstrating here. I don’t understand why they had to come here. I am against their protest,” she said, without revealing her name.
A tense calm returned over the weekend following the violence that began late on Friday. But the incident has underscored mounting concerns about extremism in Hungary.
Earlier this month, thousands of neo-nazis from across Europe gathered at the alternative Magyar Sziget, or Hungarian Island, Festival, in the village of Verőce, some 40 kilometers north of Budapest.
Among those performing was far-right Swedish singer Saga, whose lyrics allegedly inspired Anders Behring Breivik to kill 77 people last month in Norway. Saga has distanced herself from the atrocity.
But in undercover and other amateur footage she could be seen singing for neo-Nazis and other extremists, waving flags or giving the Hitler salute. She made a point of hugging several of them while performing songs with far right lyrics.Among those in the audience making the Hitler salute was the London Regional Secretary of the British National Party Chris Hurst.
The center right government has so far failed to respond to signs that Hungary is turning into a hub for extremist events. This development comes as far right groups seek scapegoats for Hungary’s deep economic difficulties.
Within the Jewish community and among rights groups there is concern, however, about verbal and physical attacks against Jewish people and the country’s impoverished gypsy, or Roma, minority.
Some 600,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust during World War Two, when Hungary for the most part was a close ally of Nazi Germany. With at least some 100,000 people Hungary currently has the largest Jewish community in Eastern Europe, outside Russia.