Budapest, Hungary Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who later hijacked two unarmed tanks in violence that marred the 50th anniversary of Hungary's uprising against Soviet rule.
At least 40 people, including some police, were injured, rescue officials said. State news agency MTI reported that police beat some of the protesters - including women and elderly people - with rubber batons, and some had head injuries.
In one of the main showdowns on Monday near Deak Square, the city's main subway hub, hundreds of police behind three water cannons slowly advanced on a few hundred rioters. The protesters threw bottles and rocks at the police who fired tear gas and rubber bullets back at them as a police helicopter circled low above the crowd.
Then one of the protesters seized a tank that was part of an exhibit in the square to commemorate the revolution. He drove it among the protesters until he was pulled out by police who rushed the vehicle. A second tank in the exhibit was pushed by the rioters toward the police.
The tanks were powerful symbols of the 1956 revolt. The night the uprising began, Red Army tanks rolled through the streets of Budapest and 12 days later, a blitz led by 4,500 Soviet tanks overran the country.
Most of the protesters were peacefully demanding to be allowed back to Kossuth Square outside parliament where the main commemorations of the 1956 revolution were under way.
Within the crowd, demonstrators held up placards with 7-foot-tall letters spelling out the word "freedom" in Hungarian.
Anti-government protests have been going on since Sept. 17, when Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany was heard admitting on a leaked recording that the government had lied about the economy before winning re-election in April.
Delegations from at least 56 countries were in Budapest for Monday's commemorations, including NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Spain's King Juan Carlos. The ceremonies began with a raising of the national flag, followed by Hungarian and foreign dignitaries laying flowers at the foot of a 1956 monument on Kossuth Square.
Later, the officials attended a special session in the legislature's Upper House Chamber, where Gyurcsany and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso spoke.
"The courage of the often anonymous heroes of 1956 led to the foundation of new democracies and the reunification of Europe," Barroso said.
The 1956 student protests began on the afternoon of Oct. 23, and by nightfall had turned into an armed uprising. Around 2,800 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the Red Army offensive to crush the revolt, which was launched on Nov. 4, 1956.
After the military defeat, strikes and protests continued for several weeks until a Soviet crackdown definitively ended the uprising in January 1957.
Some 200,000 Hungarians fled the country and at least 225 Hungarians accused of participating in the revolution were executed - including Imre Nagy, the communist-turned-democrat who was briefly retuned to power in 1956. The communists were in power in Hungary until 1989.