Dozens of protesters in Budapest have clashed with police escorting a march by gays and lesbians through the center of Hungary's capital city. Police said at least seven people were injured including a journalist and two police officers and a total of 45 people were taken into custody. Stefan Bos reports for VOA that Saturday's violence followed several earlier attacks against gay groups in Budapest.

During the evening Saturday, police cars and police vans raced through Andrassy Road, Budapest's main boulevard, to contain further unrest.

Hundreds of people demonstrated here for gay rights during the day Saturday in what is known as the Gay Pride Parade, despite threats from far right groups.

Gays, lesbians and their supporters tried to dance and wave to spectators standing behind iron fences. Soon, troubles began as protesters, some shouting anti-semitic slogans, attacked marchers with eggs, bottles and rocks.

In addition, gasoline bombs were thrown at police, some from balconies, setting fire to a police van.

Among those attacked were a liberal parliamentarian Gabor Horn, a police car carrying former undersecretary Gabor Szetey, the first openly gay Hungarian politician, and a Hungarian member of the European Parliament Katalin

Observers called it the worst violence during the dozen years the Gay Pride Parade has taken place in Budapest.

At least one woman and a man shouted to a reporter that they are shocked about the gay parade, and that it had no place in Hungarian society.  However 30-year-old Hungarian Gusztar Szepesi said he believes Hungarians in this former communist country should learn to deal with democracy.

He says that "during the first Gay Parades Hungarians thought that people participating in them were drug users. Now they should know better." And he adds: "Gays exist and they should have the right to demonstrate, as Hungary is a
democratic country."

Saturday's violence came after two recent attacks on gay businesses in Budapest.

On Thursday four gasoline bombs were thrown at a sauna frequented by gays, injuring several people, while last week a bomb was thrown at a gay bar.

The attacks were apparently encouraged by neo-nazi activists who used the Internet to urge tough action against what they called "unnatural perverts."

Gay rights watchers suggest that Saturday's clashes seem part of a wider problem in Europe. Last weekend, Gay Pride Parades in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria were also disrupted.

A human rights watchdog of the European Union, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, said last Tuesday that a third of EU states are still failing to ensure equal rights for gays and lesbians in areas of employment, housing, social aid and access to services.