Police Disperse Protesters in Hungary
Wednesday, September 20, 2006; 11:17 PM
BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Police fired tear gas early Thursday to disperse hundreds of demonstrators demanding the prime minister's resignation over his admission on a leaked tape that he lied about the dismal state of the economy.
The protesters were part of a much larger group that had gathered Wednesday evening in a fourth straight day of demonstrations against Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's government.
Police were were out in force and officials said the government could consider a curfew in the Hungarian capital.
Even as the main protest Wednesday grew to 15,000, Gyurcsany stood his ground and insisted that his government intended to press ahead with economic reforms.
"The policy of raw emotions and radicalism are in no way a viable path," he said, adding: "The government doesn't want to change its policy."
Later, the numbers of protesters dwindled to the hundreds and the chaos gripping the capital appeared to be ebbing.
While the crowd at Parliament has numbered in the thousands over the past days, the trouble has come from groups breaking away to seek mischief.
A wooden coffin placed on a stand in the square bore the slogan: "We are burying the Gyurcsany government. For you, there is no resurrection."
Police detained a youth after he tried to set the coffin alight. Later, they fired tear gas at hundreds of youthful demonstrators confronting them at a main downtown intersection, and chased others down side streets. Several youths were injured, one in the neck by a tear gas canister, but no other incidents were reported by early morning.
The calls for the resignation of Gyurcsany came after leaks of his taped comments that he had "lied morning, evening and night" about the economy. The tape was made at a closed-door meeting in late May, weeks after Gyurcsany's government became the first in post-communist Hungary to win re-election.
Confronted with initial excerpts of the 25-minute recording which Hungarian state radio put up on its Web site Sunday afternoon, Gyurcsany not only acknowledged their authenticity but seemed relieved they had been made public _ leading to speculation that the leak came from sources close to him.
Gyurcsany's refusal to step down after leaked comments that he had lied sparked violence unrivaled since the anti-Soviet revolution 50 years ago. For two days running police battled thousands of radicals trying to storm strategic or symbolic buildings.