Hungarian rioters clash with police on second night
Wednesday, September 20, 2006, 08:38
Hungarian protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány clashed with riot police for a second consecutive night in downtown Budapest. A crowd estimated at several hundred lit fires, hurled stones and other objects at police cordons outside the headquarters of the ruling Socialist Party and near the state radio building. Mounted police using flare guns and tear gas forced protesters away from the buildings. Several people lay injured in the streets after later confrontations. „My colleagues are working to disperse the crowd at several locations downtown,” said Péter Schőn, a police spokesman, in a phone interview. The clashes follow an outburst of violence early yesterday, when 200 people were left injured as protesters stormed the headquarters of state television, burning cars and beating back a police attack. Ambulance spokesman Pál Győrfi didn't answer several calls to his mobile phone today. Protest started on September 17, sparked by a leaked recording of a closed Socialist Party meeting in May. Gyurcsány on the tape said the government lied about the need for austerity measures before April elections and failed to curb the budget deficit. The forint fell to 274.27 by 2:25 a.m. in Budapest from 273.90 late yesterday. Hungary's benchmark BUX stock index fell 1.2% yesterday.
Crowds estimated at several tens of thousands by the news Web site Index gathered outside Parliament yesterday evening. Groups of bandanna-clad youth broke off the crowd to head toward the Socialist Party headquarters and the radio building as the demonstration wound down. Protesters shouted slogans calling Gyurcsány and the government traitors, demanding them to resign. They also appealed to the national feeling of policemen. Groups built barricades across city avenues and sang chants revoking Hungary's 1956 anti- communist revolution. They also burnt a police car. „We must call attention to our cause,” said a protesters draped in a red bandanna, who would only identify himself as a student. „Gyurcsány won't step out of power unless there's a big enough reason.” By 2:15 a.m., police broke the rioters into smaller groups, using a water cannon. Dozens of people were detained, according to Index. A police charge also scattered reporters and television cameramen.
The expletive-laden recording was leaked to several media outlets on September 17. Gyurcsány later published the full text in his Internet diary. He was calling for the start of a cleansing process in Hungarian politics, he said. „We screwed it up, big time,” Gyurcsány said on the leaked tape of the meeting. „No country in Europe has been so blatant. We obviously lied throughout the past 1 1/2 to 2 years. And meanwhile, we didn't do a thing for four years. Nothing.” The number of demonstrators increased during yesterday and the crowd moved to the nearby television building at about 10 p.m. last night, demanding airtime to broadcast their grievances. They were led by a group of soccer hooligans and political extremists, Gyurcsány said yesterday. Opposition leader Viktor Orbán yesterday called the October 1 municipal election a referendum about the government's austerity measures, rather simply about local councils and mayors. He expressed sympathy with the protesters, though he condemned violence. „If the results of the October 1 vote show that Hungarian people reject the package, then the Prime Minister must go and take the package with him,” Orbán said in a press conference in Budapest yesterday. „The outcry is justified, but it's not cars, policemen and the TV building that are responsible.” (Bloomberg)