Creativity, speed and good improvisation skills are an absolute must if you try to build a street barricade during riots. There is little opportunity to use bring-it-yourself materials, so you have to get on with whatever you find on the scene, and good timing is essential if you want to avoid gas grenades and rubber bullets fired by the police during the construction. Budapest protesters on Monday excelled at all the three necessary skills, using the most absurd building blocks to deter police.
Here are the contenders for the title "Best Barricade Building Block, Budapest 2006":
Metal trash containers with burning trash
Trivial as it may sound, trash containers play a double role: they effectively block grenades and bullets, and, when set on fire, they create a psychological barrier that is difficult to overcome even for the toughest of riot police.
To build the barricade at the Pest end of Erzsébet bridge, protesters used a wide variety of materials taken from a nearby construction yard. Among lots of brick and wooden panels, they also used a concrete mixer, thus forcing police to deploy an unusual device, a snow plow to break through. Among all barricades, the one at the bridge took the longest to build and it was the last one to fall.
A bus operated by the Budapest Transportation Company (BKV) makes a perfect barricade in itself. On Monday, protesters occupied a number 15 bus, turned it across Bajcsy Zsilinszky út and took cover behind it until things got worse. They also tried to persuade a trolley bus driver to give up the vehicle, but the driver said no and fled without consequences. Here's an animated how-to about the hijacking part, complete with police intervention. Clever. (Note that this one was a failed attempt; the would-be barricade builders fled after the cops showed up.)
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Budapest mass events are notorious of the blue plastic toilet boxes, made by a company called ToiToi, emitting a smell which is a horrible mixture of feces, urine and chlorine. The Monday riots saw the first use of mobile toilets as barricade building elements in the 16-year old history of Hungarian democracy. Rioters deployed the ToiTois on Rákóczi út, using the boxes’ doors as improvised shields to block incoming bullets.
And the winner of the "Best Barricade Building Block, Budapest 2006" contest is:
"Szabadság" means freedom or liberty, and, to our best knowledge, this was the first time in the history of mankind that the word was used to build a barricade. On September 24, Budapest Mayor Gábor Demszky set up an art exhibit near the downtown city council: it was a series of man-tall, letter shaped objects painted the colors of the national flag - red, white and green -, that together spelt out the sentence “Budapest a szabadság fővárosa” (Budapest, the capital of liberty). On October 23, protesters removed the letters S, Z, A, B, A, D, S, Á and G, and used the huge blocks to build a barricade. Lesson learnt: B is safer than D. And never try to hide behind a G.