Mob Suppresses Emigration Protest, Roughs Up Refuseniks, Reporters
MOSCOW (AP) _ Hundreds of burly men in civilian clothes roughed up refuseniks and journalists Sunday and knocked down and detained U.S. TV newsman Peter Arnett during rival demonstrations on the eve of the U.S.-Soviet summit.
At least 100 refuseniks - Soviets denied permission to emigrate - planned to take part in a protest against Soviet restrictions on emigration.
But at least 27 were detained en route to the Moscow demonstration, and the others were overwhelmed by about 200 plainclothes KGB agents and about 100 members of the officially supported Soviet Peace Committee.
The agents jammed Smolensky Square and jostled refuseniks who managed to get through police cordons blocking all entrances to the protest site, a small triangle of grass opposite the Foreign Ministry.
They shoved and occasionally threw punches at refuseniks and Western journalists trying to photograph the clash.
It was the clearest indication in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 8-10 Washington summit that Soviet authorities will not tolerate public expressions of dissent, even under Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s policy of ″glasnost,″ or openness on certain topics.
It appeared that authorities went to considerable lengths to quell the refuseniks’ protest.
Alexander Feldman, a refusenik and would-be demonstrator, told The Associated Press he spent Saturday night at his sister’s apartment in an attempt to avoid Soviet authorities.
But when he left his sister’s home Sunday morning to go to the demonstration, Feldman said three men put him into a waiting black sedan and drove him to a police station 40 miles outside Moscow. He said he was released about 2:30 p.m., two hours after the protest was over.
About 15 minutes into the refusenik protest, plainclothes agents knocked down and struck Arnett, the Moscow correspondent for Cable Network News, and then hustled him into a bus and drove him to a nearby office.
Arnett said he was released after about four hours after being presented with a written accusation that he assaulted a Soviet citizen by knocking off his hat with a microphone. Arnett said he wrote a formal denial of the allegations.
Uniformed police chased strollers and bus passengers from the Moscow protest site shortly before noon and stationed teams of police and plainclothes KGB agents around the perimeter to keep other pedestrians away.
At least five busloads of plainclothes agents then arrived with signs proclaiming support for peace and opposition to President Reagan’s plans for a space-based missile defense system, ″Star Wars.″
These were wielded by agents during the counter-demonstration, which had not been announced in advance. Agents surrounded the refuseniks, jabbing them with their elbows and the wooden staffs of the peace signs.
The agents also used the peace signs to block photography by Western correspondents and to damage the equipment of television crews.
Arnett speculated that agents went after him because his crew managed to keep filming, despite the attempts to block its view. He said the men who detained him were ″very belligerent″ and ground his U.S. passport into the earth and tried to rip up his official press accreditation.
The official Tass news agency said late Sunday that the counter- demonstration was disturbed ″by a group of provocateurs, who had wormed their way into the ranks of the participants in the rally, trying to discourse on human rights, swinging their fists and shouting insults.″
Soviet television broadcast film of the peace demonstration and showed Jewish refuseniks, who it said disrupted the rally with shouts of ″I want to emigrate 3/8″ and ″Let me join my mother in Israel 3/8″
The commentator remarked that Western camera crews concentrated only on the refuseniks and took no interest in the peace rally.
Activists scheduled demonstrations in Moscow and Leningrad to draw attention to the thousands of Soviet Jews they say are being kept in the Soviet Union against their will.
Marina Forman said in a telephone call from Leningrad that the demonstration scheduled there was stifled after authorities detained would-be protesters at their homes. She said her husband was arrested and sentenced to 10 days in jail for trying to take part in an illegal protest.
David Schwartzman, whose family has been trying to emigrate for 12 years, said an information network set up to monitor the fate of Moscow demonstrators showed that 27 were taken to militia stations before they reached the protest site and at least three were detained after the protest.
All were released about two hours later.
Schwartzman said 70 claimed to have made it to the square for at least part of the protest.
The rival demonstration was similar to the method used to suppress a gathering of Jewish refuseniks last Dec. 10 at Pushkin Square in Moscow.
Hundreds of officially supported peace demonstrators showed up to drown out the refuseniks’ voices with calls for disarmament and world peace.