Family Hid American Reporter From Police With AM-East Germany-Protests, Bjt
BERLIN (AP) _ Two fellow correspondents and I were following a column of several hundred pro-democracy marchers down a narrow street in East Berlin early Sunday when riot police surrounded the protesters.
Just as we realized we had been cut off, the police charged us, separating the column into small groups. One of the groups ran into a doorway and then into a courtyard where more police jumped out to grab them.
One of the marchers was able to duck into an open doorway. NBC Radio correspondent Gary Matsumoto and I followed him in. We ran upstairs where we were hidden by a family that had seen us fleeing.
The family concealed us for three hours at great personal risk. Police knocked on their door many times, threatening to break it down if they didn’t open it. They refused.
Our other colleague - (London) Sunday Times correspondent Peter Millar of England - was arrested and taken to a police station in a suburb.
We later found out that he was questioned for six hours and released. He told us that up to 1,000 people may have been arrested Saturday night and early Sunday in East Berlin and that many were beaten while being detained.
A fourth Western journalist - London Sunday Observer correspondent Catherine Field - got away somehow.
The demonstration started with about 7,000 people Saturday afternoon and continued with interruptions until around 1 a.m. Sunday. By then the police had brought in water cannon and used them on the few hundred people still left on the streets.
The family that sheltered us consisted of a man in his 40s, a woman in her 30s and their child about age 10. The couple asked that their names not be published because of possible harassment by security forces.
As we talked we heard screams outside of protesting crowds when the water cannon went into action, and police boots stomping on the cobblestone streets as police scattered marchers.
Our host, who clearly was risking his job by hiding us, was deeply sad.
″It’s a horrible shame that Germans are beating up on other Germans out of fear of change,″ he said. ″We need to discuss our problems, but what kind of discussion can you have when rubber truncheons are the strongest argument our government can offer?″
Both parents said they were white-collar workers and are intensely interested in current affairs. Their large apartment was filled with books on various topics.
Tens of thousands of despairing East Germans have left their homeland for the West in the past two months, and there is a growing pro-democracy movement that is unwanted by the country’s hard-line leaders.
The East Berlin couple was concerned about where their country was headed, and that violence might soon erupt again.
The family offered us food, but we were too nervous to eat. We did accept their offer of some red wine and later, tea.
The husband went over to a window, inspecting the backyard to see if there were any police there. There were none. But police were still milling around in front of the house.
He said we would probably be able to get out safely if we left through a backdoor and walked through the backyard to a side street. We decided to try it and thanked our hosts for their help.
I met up again with Millar on Sunday morning at the Grand Hotel, who said he was ordered to leave East Berlin. He said he wasn’t beaten while detained but he was handled roughly until the police found out he was foreign correspondent.
Millar was first taken to the prison at Ruemmelsburg. Because the prison was already full he was then taken to a large detention facility at Marzahn.
I escaped the beatings and arrests and have little to show as battle scars except a wrist sprained in a successful tussle with a state security agent for my tape recorder.