Police detained several members of a far-right vigilante group Friday after hundreds of frightened Roma women and children were bused out of a village where it was planning to train.
The Hungarian Red Cross said it evacuated 277 people from the village of Gyongyospata by bus to other parts of Hungary because the local Roma are concerned about potential confrontations with members of the Vedero, or Defense Force.
Police detained Vedero commander Tamas Eszes on Friday afternoon, leading him away in handcuffs from the plot in the village where the training was planned.
Eszes, wearing in a red beret, heavy boots and camouflage gear with what appeared to be German military insignia, shouted to the other members of the group to continue with the training. Police, however, later also detained several others members of Vedero as they gathered in the village.
Several far-right vigilante groups, usually dressed in military-like uniforms, have been patrolling the village, and others in eastern Hungary that have large Roma populations, with the stated purpose of defending the non-Roma residents from “Gypsy crime.”
Farkas said that members of Vedero who went to the village last week to scout a location for their training camp had shouted violent threats at the Roma.
“They want to intimidate the Roma here,” Farkas [Janos Farkas, chairman of the local gypsy council] said. “Their presence is extremely upsetting and will achieve nothing.”
Vedero leader Eszes said his group was not racist, had not taken part in anti-Roma village patrols and had no connection to any political party.
“This is unnecessary scaremongering and they want to put the ‘extremist’ tag on us,” Eszes said of the Roma evacuation. “We met earlier with Gypsy leaders and reassured them about our activities.”
Eszes said Vedero had recently purchased the 1.5-acre plot in Gyongyospata because of its low price and planned to hold training activities there every month from now on.
Eszes said his group wanted to improve the physical condition of Hungarian youths, blaming its decline partly on the elimination of the military draft, abolished by lawmakers in 2004.
“Hungary’s youth are in bad physical shape, sitting in front of a computer all day,” Eszes said. “We are continuing the old Hungarian tradition of military-style training.”
At the same time, Eszes said “Gypsy crime” was an “existing problem which can’t be denied,” pointing to the high percentage of Roma among Hungary’s prison population.
“But that is not our problem,” Eszes said.
Eszes said that recent verbal confrontations in the village were started by the Roma, and that Vedero had called for police protection. “Why would three or four of us want to take on 70 Gypsies?”
According to Vedero’s website, which was blocked late Friday by the service provider, the training camp starting Friday was open to “all youths and adults who love their country and who are interested in learning military and self-defense basics.”
Trainees are also encouraged to bring Airsoft weapons–realistic-looking pellet rifles and guns–and boxing gloves.
“Military disciplinary rules will be in effect on the campsite during the three days,” the advertisement says.