Hungarian far-right party protests lockdown

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Hungarians hold flags during a protest in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, March 15, 2021. Hungarians gathered on the country's national day to protest against the current lockdown measures after new restrictive measures were introduced by the Hungarian government last week aiming to slow a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)

BUDAPEST – Demonstrators in Hungary’s capital broke a ban on public gatherings on Monday to demand an end to the country's lockdown restrictions, even as a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations sweeps the country.

The demonstration was organized by a far-right party, Mi Hazank Mozgalom (Our Homeland Movement), and joined by some 1,000 people.

The group broke through a police cordon and marched to Hungary's parliament in central Budapest. They demanded an end to pandemic restrictions that have been in effect for more than four months and have placed a heavy burden on the country's economy.

“They are inciting panic and using that to restrict our freedom, and Hungary is being ruined,” Our Homeland Movement co-chairman Laszlo Toroczkai said, reading aloud his party's demands for a lifting of restrictions that have been in place since Nov. 11.

The restrictions include an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, limiting of restaurants to delivery and take-out service, and remote learning for high school and university students.

An additional set of restrictions went into effect last week, including the mandatory closure of most shops and businesses, as well as a suspension until April 7 of in-school learning for kindergartens and primary schools.

“It’s all a big mess,” said Ferenc Szabo, a shopkeeper who had traveled from his home city of Sopron in western Hungary to join the march.

“Testing should be more widespread, the regulations on masks are overblown, but the most important thing is that we cannot work," Szabo said. "We are locked down.”