Police in Budapest used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters as demonstrations against the government escalated on the 50th anniversary of Hungary's revolution.
Groups clashed with police on one of the main routes through the capital, where presidents from across the region today commemorated the 1956 uprising. Sirens, helicopters and canister explosions could be heard in downtown areas as police, some on horseback, pushed people back. Police bolstered their numbers because of concern about a violent resumption of the protests seen in recent weeks. „The leaders of this country are the descendents of the servants of the dictatorship,” said János Kovács who said his father was killed during the revolution. Kovács, in the crowd with his son, spoke as clouds of teargas wafted over the street. People shouted „56, 56” and „murderers” as they moved toward police today, before being repelled with gas. They dismantled an art installation that said „Budapest, City of Freedom” and hurled debris at police. „Protesters attacked our colleagues, and the police responded,” police spokesman Tibor Jármy said in a telephone interview. Other people occupied a city bus and used it as a barricade, they also tried to use another trolley bus, but its driver refused to cooperate and drove past them, Hungarian television reported.
Televisions are trying to follow riots on the streets, pictures are shown about the main scenes of the streets where some crowds are standing behind the police cordons, police have separated rioters to several groups of some thousands of people. A few civilians and also a few officers of the police force have been wounded, nobody got seriously injured.
Gyurcsány came under pressure to resign last month after saying on a leaked tape that the whole political elite lied, and criticized his party also to be lying about the state of the economy before elections in April. Hungary's latest woes are linked to a budget deficit that's the largest in the European Union when compared with the country's economy. The government is cutting spending on such things as university tuition and drug subsidies. Gyurcsány said today in his speech that 1956 was about freedom and 2006 is about „the order of freedom and democracy.” Though violence had stopped since three nights of riots in mid-September, political tension remains as Fidesz, the largest opposition party, boycotts Gyurcsány’s speeches while party leader Viktor Orbán predicted his fall from power within a year. Orbán, speaking at a party rally today, called for national votes on health, pension and education policies. „They lied, they tricked and misled the people, taking away the right of a free election,” Orbán said. „A democratic referendum is the solution where people can decide freely.” He was speaking in central Budapest, a 10 minute walk from where police and protesters continued their stand-off. He called on demonstrators to „stick to democratic means” and said the vote would restore order.
Officers last night cleared the square in front of Parliament, removing a band of protesters that had camped in a corner for a month demanding Gyurcsány’s resignation. There were clashes before police sealed the area ahead of today's events involving foreign dignitaries. Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, Poland's Lech Kaczynski and the heads of the three Baltic states were among visitors from about 60 countries, according to the Hungarian Prime Minister's Office. Other guests include European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Spanish King Juan Carlos. Groups of demonstrators have been milling around the city all day, some convening at the Corvin cinema, one of the flashpoints during the 1956 uprising, according to news web site Index.hu. Many then heading downtown, swelling the crowd involved in the stand-off against police with batons and shields.
President László Sólyom said in a speech last month that the current protests shouldn't be equated with the 1956 revolution. The 1956 rebellion followed a period of political oppression. Like in other Soviet satellite states, secret police incarcerated people judged to be against the regime, while economically the country headed toward the collective farms and industrial expansion seen under Stalin in Russia. The uprising began October 23 in Budapest with a student march to demand democracy. When protests spread across the country, the government asked for Soviet help to quell the revolt. The Kremlin sent tanks and 60,000 soldiers. About 3,000 people died in three weeks of fighting and scars can still be seen on some buildings. Once restored to power, the communist regime executed hundreds and interned thousands in jails and labor camps. (Bloomberg)