Crowds in the hundreds flocked to Budapest on Sunday for the “Roma Pride” march, which celebrates Hungary’s largest ethnic minority, a target of widespread prejudice.
An estimated 500 people walked through the heart of the city, chanting “Opre Roma!” – translating to “Up Roma” – while boasting signs illustrating famous figures of ethnic-Roma background, like British actor Charlie Chaplin and Spanish footballer Jesus Navas.
“This day is about everyone, Roma and non-Roma, showing pride in our community, and our positive contributions to Hungary,” said lead organizer Jeno Setet of the “We Belong Here” civil group.
According to the Council of Europe, the Roma – commonly referred to as gypsies – are one of the largest minority groups in central Europe, making up about seven percent of Hungary’s population of 10 million.
“It’s usually impossible to hear anything positive about us in the media however, or anywhere else,” Setet told AFP.
Most mistrust billed against the Roma is due to widespread unemployment and poverty amongst their communities, along with the fact that they “trail in practically every indicator from living stands to health,” according to the European Union. Far-right officials of the country’s second-biggest party, Jobbik, have also repeatedly made anti-Roma remarks.
“A majority of Hungarian society doesn’t want anything to do with the Roma,” Mihaly Simon of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union rights group told AFP.
Many belonging to the Roma argue that the sacrifices made by their people throughout history for Hungary have been forgotten or lost, along with their connected hardships with other communities in the country.
Setet plans to present the government with a petition, advocating to include the Roma Holocaust in school curriculums, where an estimated half a million European Roma perished during World War II.
Other groups taking part in the pride march included those representing gay rights, the Jewish community, and homeless people, among many more.
“Roma Pride is our answer to the rise of nationalism, racism and anti-semitism these days in Europe, and especially in Hungary,” said Benjamin Abtan, Paris-based president of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement.
The march concluded a series of 13 Roma Pride events that took place throughout Europe in October.