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Thousands demonstrate against new constitutional amendments in Budapest

A demonstration organized by civil groups against planned amendments to Hungary’s constitution took place in the street in front of parliament on Saturday. Several thousand demonstrators gathered in front of a stage erected in Alkotmány (Constitution) Street, among them former Budapest mayor Gábor Demszky. The main speaker at the event, which was advertised with the motto “the constitution is not a game”, was the writer Miklós Tamás Gáspár. He said a new order was necessary in which “the people will finally rule”. “We don’t want much, just…freedom, equality and fraternity,” he added. The demonstrators held placards on which were written “Fair constitution!”, “Racism and anti-Semitism is a deadly sin” and “Constitution, democracy, rule of law!”. Opposition green party LMP told MTI on Saturday that the party’s members and sympathisers would participate at the demonstration. The invitation to the demonstration posted on Facebook said protestors wanted to speak out about constitutionality and the rule of law, family rights, higher education and the defense of the homeless and the poor. The demonstration finished without incident, a police spokesperson confirmed for MTI. At the end of the protest, about one thousand participants with drums, whistles and placards, started out in the direction of the MPs office building, near the Danube. Demonstrators then crossed the Margaret Bridge and proceeded in the direction of the Constitutional Court building in Buda. Three rows of police stood between the demonstrators and the entrance to the Constitutional Court when they arrived. Speakers to the crowd said the court was “in its last days”. Police intervention was not necessary at the event, said Budapest Police Headquarters spokesperson Viktória Kovács. The demonstrators said they would continue their protest on Monday at the Sándor Palace, the residence of the president, who must sign the amendments before they can take effect. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the amendments to the constitution on Monday. If parliament passes the 15 pages of amendments all Constitutional Court rulings prior to it will be annulled, though their legal effects will remain in force. Its judges will be able to align future rulings with ones predating the new basic law but they can make new ones too. The court scrapped several transitional laws on technical grounds and it is now proposed that these be inserted into the basic law.