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Peaceful demonstrations turn violent in Budapest

Latest update : 2008-09-21

Right-wing extremist groups clashed with police in the Hungarian capital late on Saturday, after attacking peaceful demonstrations by anti-racist groups in the city centre.

Violent clashes erupted between police and far-right extremists in Hungary Saturday after thousands of radicals joined by worried Roma rallied in Budapest, police said.

About 200 participants in an earlier far-right demonstration vandalised parked cars and restaurant terraces on Budapest's main Andrassy Avenue as police tried to drive them out of the city centre.

Police moved in on the extremist demonstrators after a group had attacked people leaving from the previous anti-racist demonstrations.

Eight people were taken into custody, a police spokeswoman said, adding that there were no reports of injuries.

"Clashes ceased in the streets of Budapest around 07.30 pm (1730 GMT), traffic restarted and street cleaners started working," Eva Taffnerer said.

"Police continues to monitor the streets and we expect that several people will still be taken into custody," she added.

Three separate demos took place simultaneously within a mile or so (a couple of kilometres) of each other in Budapest Saturday afternoon -- hundreds of far-right extremists, around 3,000 liberals and also some 1,500 gypsies who joined the protest against the radicals.

The Hungarian Democratic Charta movement and a gathering of Roma organisations each called for an end to intolerance and racism.

"Hungarians must not be adversaries of each other," socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany told a crowd arriving in front of the Parliament.

The movement was initiated by Gyurcsany in reaction to clashes between extremists and marchers during a gay rights march in July.

Signed by over 5,000 people including public figures, the movement's charter calls for action against extremism, agressiveness and intolerance.

Date created : 2008-09-21