BUDAPEST, Hungary — Around 300 people gathered outside Budapest's New Theater on Wednesday to protest its new director, an actor with links to far-right parties.
Dozens of members of extreme-right groups seeking to disrupt the protest, some wearing face masks and shouting racist slogans, were kept a nearly block away from the theater by police in riot gear. A few were detained by police, state news wire MTI reported.
Gyorgy Dorner became head of the theater Wednesday after being named in October by Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos. Dorner was picked by Tarlos over the theater's previous director, Istvan Marta.
Dorner initially named far-right playwright and politician Istvan Csurka, also known for his anti-Semitic articles, as the theater's artistic director, but Tarlos blocked the plan.
Dorner has described himself as a "national radical" and has taken part in rallies of Jobbik, a far-right party which won nearly 17 percent of the votes in the 2010 elections.
Dorner is also known in Hungary as the voice of Eddie Murphy and Bruce Willis in dubbed films.
"Fascist ideology should not be allowed to set foot in our life nor in our culture," said Fruzsina Magyar, a Jewish dramaturge who addressed the crowd. "We have to unite against this extremist, murderous ideology. To oppose it is not a political issue, but a moral one."
The protest ended with the French national anthem La Marseillaise, which is considered a song against tyranny.
Jewish groups and theater professionals across Europe have also opposed Dorner's appointment, while Tarlos said the new director's performance would be evaluated "at an appropriate time" and asked critics for "patience and restraint."
A block away, dressed mostly in black, members of the New Hungarian Guard and other far-right groups lined up in formation, sang patriotic songs and said a prayer for Hungary.
"I totally agree with Dorner's nomination," said Attila Laszlo from the southeastern city of Bekescsaba. "I'm not a big theatergoer, but after this it's possible that I will come" to the New Theater.