Activists chain themselves to NATO train


On 31 May 1996, a media-train called the NATO-Express was due to depart from Budapest full of journalists, politicians and dignitaries as part of a slick exercise to promote the advantages of Hungary joining NATO. LASZLO (PEPE) PERNECZKY gives an account of how the small Hungarian anti-militarist group,
Alba Kor, became a fly in the NATO soup that day.

6.45am: One of our members visits the luxurious train on platform 10. No sign of
police or security guards, so our plan is still secret.

7.35am Everyone arrives at the office on time and confirms their involvement
for the last time. One person goes on ahead with the video recorder and two stay
behind as backup.

7.45am The rest of our Alba Action group leave the office, completely cool
and laughing but with hammering hearts. At the station we see the right-wing
politician Csurka Istvan hurrying to catch the train. We smile: he need not
have rushed, since the train is going to be late...

8am We wait under a clock on the other side of the train. With our bags full
of chains and locks we look like tourists, so we pretend to talk about our
camping trip.

8.20am Slowly we walk along the platform and check everything out. We Wait
while two railway workers pass by, and then step onto the tracks...

8.25am The chaining is not disturbed only the train-drivers are staring from
the engine. They might think this is part of the programme. Well it is but our
programme, not the organisers Within 90 seconds, three Alba Kor activists
are properly chained in front of the train. Istvan leaves quickly with the keys.
Zoltan with the video camera arrives to record the action. Fidusz unfurls
our NO NATO banner, and Tamas gets out the microphone and starts his speech.

8.30am Pepe runs along the train, throwing leaflets in through the windows
and shouting out for the journalists to come to the front of the train. The
arriving police switch off the loudspeaker, but Tamas shouts on. The police then try to send the journalists away, but they film on.

8.35am The secretary of the Manfred Worner Foundation, Wachsler Tamas,
hurries to the front. He seems pretty upset, but shakes hands with Tamas and then
runs away to find the security people.

8.40am The chain-cutters arrive in a little electric car. There is a bit of confusion, but eventually all the chains are cut and the three are taken away by the police.

12.20pm After questioning and a police warning, the three activists leave the
police free no charges are to be brought against them. By this time the radio
news announces the action. 1pm The daily paper, Esti Hirlap, is on the streets,
and our action is on the cover page!
That evening our action is reported on radio and TV news, and the next day
we are in all the papers. We achieve our main objective, and turn the NATO
media-bomb against themselves: instead of headlines like NATO-Express off to
a good start, the papers reported Hungary's NATO joining starts with problems.

Alba Kor