Editor’s Note: The following article and its headline has been revised to reflect updated reports from MTI.
The March of Peace for Hungary, a pro-government demonstration in which hundreds of thousands of people participated, wound up in Kossuth Square, in front of the parliament building, late Saturday.
Andras Bencsik, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Magyar Demokrata and one of the demonstration’s organisers, told the crowd from a platform on the square that one million people were participating in the march. He thanked all of the participants and called their gathering together “fantastic”.
Bencsik said that as the first marchers reached the square, the demonstrators at the end of the column were on Andrassy Boulevard, near the Oktogon (about 2.4km away – ed.).
The Ministry of the Interior put the number of demonstrators “close to 400,000”.
Another organiser, the journalist Zsolt Bayer, a founding member of the governing Fidesz party, said several hundred thousand people could have joined the march. He added that the number was difficult to estimate because Kossuth Square was packed, as was Alkotmany Street, the main street leading to the square, and the column of marchers stretched back to Andrassy Boulevard.
Bayer said the event had exceeded all expectations. He said that there were no plans to repeat the march every week, but added that “if there is reason, we will gather together again”.
Another of the march’s organisers, the businessman Gabor Szeles, who owns Echo Tv and the daily Magyar Hirlap, called the demonstration the biggest of the decade, adding that there may not have been such a protest since the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
Bayer said the demonstrators had sent the message that “this government is not alone”. He said Hungary had waited 40 years for Europe, but added, “We will not be a colony”.
“We will not be a colony” was also the text, in both Hungarian and English, written on a banner carried by the organisers, who became part of the middle of the column of marchers as more and more demonstrators joined.
The demonstrators said they wanted to show they have no other intention but to “live in freedom, with respect for others, in peace, understanding and in the framework of democracy”.
Nobody was slated to give a speech at the event.
Many of the demonstrators held flags with the national colours and placards with the names of their cities and towns, some in regions of Romania and Slovakia with large populations of ethnic kin, MTI’s correspondent at the scene reported.
Bencsik invited the crowd to sing the Szozat, a national anthem, and then return home to allow the rest of the marchers into the square.
The Ministry of the Interior called the march, which started at Heroes’ Square in the afternoon, “peaceful” and “good-tempered”, adding that no police action had been taken.
The historian Gabor Bencsik participated in the march as an organiser. He was joined by Fidelitas chairman Peter Agh as well as former Fidesz-KDNP MP and government commissioner for the capital Imre Pesti.