East Germany Denies Battles Between Rock Fans, Police
BERLIN (AP) _ East Germany said Tuesday that battles between rock music fans and its police, which were seen by reporters and shown on television, did not occur.
Western journalists at the scene saw at least 50 people arrested late Monday night in violence between police and thousands of young people who tried to assemble on the communist side of the Berlin Wall to hear an outdoor rock concert in adjacent West Berlin.
West German television showed closeups of three consecutive nights of disturbances that ended early Tuesday, including fights between youths and police.
In a brief dispatch Tuesday, the official East German news agency ADN said there was no violence.
″Clashes between police and youth can absolutely not be talked about, it said. ″They exist only in the figment of some Western correspondents’ imaginations.″
It said ″several hundred fans″ gathered to hear music ″amplified by loudspeakers.″
West German political leaders and newspapers condemned efforts by East German police to prevent the thousands of East German rock fans from hearing the music.
″How deeply a regime must fear the yearning for freedom of its people, if young people can’t even be allowed the right to freely hear music from the West,″ said Christoph Boehr, head of the ruling Christian Democratic Party’s youth group.
″The gathering of youths at the wall in East Berlin ... shows that among young people in the GDR (East Germany) the desire for freedom and more contacts is bigger than ever.″
In Bonn, a government spokesman said West Germany filed an official protest about the roughing-up by police of some Western journalists at the scene.
Mass outbursts are rare in East Germany, whose conservative communist government tolerates little dissent.
Thousands of East Berlin youths flocked to the heavily guarded Brandenburg Gate area Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights after hearing Western radio reports that major rock groups would perform in a field on the wall’s western side.
Trouble began when columns of police were deployed to keep them away from the wall.
Violence peaked Monday night when young people threw firecrackers, bottles and rocks at police, chanting: ″The wall must go 3/8″ and ″We want freedom 3/8″
Police punched protesters in the face or stomach and hustled scores away in vans. The number of injured was not known.
The dispatch from ADN was East Germany’s first official statement on the wall incidents.
It accused West Berlin authorities of committing ″a provocation″ by allowing open-air concerts next to the Reichstag building in West Berlin and the Brandenburg Gate, which is nearby in East Berlin. The last concert, Monday night, was by the British group Genesis.
Winfried Fest, spokesman for the West Berlin government, said the concerts were privately sponsored and the charge was ″absurd.″
″The riots show anew the humanity of music and the inhumanity of the wall,″ he said.
West Berlin, an enclave guarded by Western military forces, is 110 miles inside East Germany. The East Germans put up the wall in August 1961 to stop emigration to the West through West Berlin.
American diplomats in West Berlin said the unrest appeared to result from frustration over not being able to hear the music.
″Most ... went there for the music, not to make a statement,″ one said, on condition his name not be used. ″But basically it is a political situation that caused their frustration, so the thing also took (on) the character of a political protest.″