| A protester injured after clashes with police on Monday. (Reuters)
Budapest, Oct. 23 (Reuters): Hungarian police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at thousands of anti-government protesters today, marring commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the country’s 1956 uprising against Soviet rule.
Police also used water cannon and some protesters lobbed stones and other missiles at them. The ambulance service said that 20-25 people had been injured, although no one was seriously hurt. One policeman was stabbed in the hand.
As police pushed the crowd of mostly far-Right protesters back towards a rally by the main right of centre Fidesz Opposition and further away from parliament, demonstrators seized a Soviet-era T-34 tank — on show for the commemorations — and drove it at police.
“The whole crowd started cheering. The police started firing tear gas, then the tank stopped,” Reuters cameraman Fedja Grulovic said.
Reuters reporters said police had fired hundreds of tear gas rounds and used mounted police to clear protesters from the streets and that paving stones had been thrown at the lines of police in riot gear.
There has been more than a month of demonstrations in the run-up to the anniversary following the admission by Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany in a leaked speech that he lied about the economy to win national elections in April.
Gyurcsany has defied calls for him to quit, and backed by his Socialists and the Free Democrat parliamentary allies won a vote of confidence to carry on with his tough economic policies.
In parliament, the Prime Minister said Hungarians in 1956 had no choice but to rebel, and the country, which held its first free elections in 1990 and joined the EU in 2004, was now a modern, democratic state.
“Despite the often justified disappointment and discontent, the majority of Hungarians believe that parliamentary democracy is the most suited to express people’s will and to create law and give a programme to a free Hungary,” he said.
Even before Gyurcsany’s speech was leaked on September 17, many on the Right questioned whether celebrations should be led by the Socialists, heirs of the communists whose rule was cemented for 33 more years after Soviet troops put down the uprising.
Some 2,600 Hungarians died battling Soviet troops, more than 200 were executed for their role in the uprising and 200,000 fled the country.