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Protesters head for City Park after police remove acivists

Sights

A demonstration at the former campsite of the Ligetvédők activists in City Park is to begin at 5pm today, followed by another protest running from 6-8pm in Heroes Square, after police this morning cleared out activists who were living in the park in the hopes of blocking development there.

An image from the activistsʼ Facebook page.

An hour before the demonstration, roughly 700 people had signed on to a Facebook page about the protest, to say they will join the action, which starts at Olof Palme sétány 3 in City Park.

Early this morning, some 200 police officers showed up to remove protesters who had been camped out around an old structure in Városliget (City Park) since March 17, in an attempt to block plans for construction of several museums there.

Activists had expressed the hope that by camping on the proposed construction site, they could protect trees from being felled to make way for substantial reconstruction of City Park. The entity in charge of orchestrating the proposed new museum quarter, Városliget Zrt., said in a statement that demonstrators were first asked to leave the area, but since it did not happen, a local court registrar was petitioned to issue a ruling, so that construction work could finally start.

The police showed up this morning to enforce that ruling, but activists questioned its legality.

“We are convinced that this is illegal, as that has been established by lawyers from TASZ (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union). Our supporters are trying to block workers by sitting in their way, so they cannot start to tear down the first building designated for demolition,” Nóra Horváth, one of the leading figures of the Ligetvédők (Park Protecters) movement, reported to the Budapest Business Journal on site today.

The reason for initiating the police intervention was not clear, but it may have to do with the fact that Cabinet Chief János Lázár, head of the Prime Ministerʼs Office, announced a few days ago that work in City Park can no longer suffer any delay, Horváth noted.

There seems to be no more legal options left to the activists, because an initiative for referendum on the subject was blocked by the Supreme Court. “Civil resistance is the only tool we can use now. We just canʼt allow our park to be destroyed on our watch. We can think of more suitable locations than the Park to carry out the project,” Horváth said.

András Lukács, president of Levegő Munkacsoport (Air Working Group) agreed that the reconstruction would alter the area immensely – and for the worse.

“One of the biggest problems is that green sections would be even more fragmented as a result than they are now. And huge buildings would be erected that are to attract large masses of visitors. That would entirely disrupt the peaceful atmosphere residents come here to enjoy,” Lukács said. 

He added that these developments are sad, not only because a clearly dissenting public opinion is completely disregarded, but also because districts 6, 7, 8 and 13 score extremely low on green surface ratio. “In Terézváros, District 6, that figure is one square meter per resident, whereas 21 square meters would be recommended by international standards,” Lukács said.

While planners say the proposed museum quarter, or Liget Project, will not reduce the amount of green space in the park, critics say that the planners consider rooftop lawns as green space. In effect, critics say, grass on rooftops would be used as justification for cutting down trees that are 100-years-old or older.

According to available data, some 300,000 tons of concrete are to be used for the construction works under the Liget Project, and several underground garages are also part of the plan.

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