Cordons or no cordons? This was the main point of discussion in the run-up to the 22nd Budapest Pride march, set to take place on Saturday 8th July. In recent years the event organisers have repeatedly requested the march be held cordon-free, sadly all in vain.
The advantages of no or only partial cordoning would be that people could join or leave at multiple points, allowing more interaction with society. The march is not merely about the right to peaceful assembly, it is also about communication and visibility, which is made impossible if the entire route is sealed off. Having no or only partial cordoning would also be important for those not attending the march, since disruption to traffic would be reduced.
From 2008 onwards police have chosen to seal off the route, claiming this is necessary for the participants protection. However, since then much has changed, the number of participants has considerably increased, while the number of counter-demonstrators has greatly decreased. Furthermore, last year there were no aggressive incidents.
This year there will be 250 volunteers escorting the march, ensuring that the procession progresses peacefully and reducing the number of police officers required to secure the event. There will also be a record number of 50 legal observers accompanying the march, whose role is to video any violent attack, and subsequently initiate legal proceedings to make the culprit(s) accountable, according to the Budapest Pride spokesperson Cintia Karlik.
Despite such precautions the Budapest Police Headquarters (BRFK) has again decided to cordon off the entire route this year. As in the Robert Frost poem, Mending Wall, one side says "something there is that doesn’t love a wall", while the other replies "good fences make good neighbors".