Police Clash With Pro-Reform Demonstrators In Four Cities
BERLIN (AP) _ Truncheon-swinging police attacked protesters during massive demonstrations in East Berlin, Leipzig and Potsdam on Saturday following overnight street battles in Dresden, witnesses and television reports said.
In East Berlin late Saturday about 300 troopers moved in to guard the Communist Party’s Central Committee headquarters.
The demonstrations were the most widespread display of opposition to the hard-line Communist policies of the East German leadership in years and came on the country’s 40th anniversary. More than 10,000 people are believed to have participated in the protests in the four cities.
Scores of people were arrested and dozens injured by police who punched, kicked and dragged away protesters and beat many with truncheons, according to the reports. There were no official reports on the number of arrests or injured. Three Western journalists were reportedly detained.
About 5,000 people held a pro-reform demonstration at East Berlin’s Alexanderplatz square at the end of a visit by Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, a guest of honor during the anniversary celebrations.
Many East Germans want their hard-line leaders to adopt the kinds of democratic reforms undertaken by Gorbachev in the Soviet Union.
The demonstrators shouted ″Gorby, Gorby, help us 3/8″ and taunted the police with calls of ″You people are afraid but we’re not.″
Passing the state-owned ADN news agency office, protesters chanted ″Liar. Liar″ and ″Press freedom, press freedom.″
One man’s head was smashed against the wall of an East Berlin apartment building when police were breaking up that demonstration.
Others were kicked by security police, dragged along the ground to side streets and hauled away, according to witnesses. Some Western news photographers also were beaten by police who struck at their cameras.
Many East Berlin residents watched the melee from their apartment windows above the street, waving sparklers to show their support for the demonstrators.
Late Saturday an estimated 5,000 people converged in and around an East Berlin church to demand the release of political prisoners.
Security forces used clubs to disperse them, reported West German ZDF television, but witnesses contradicted that report. They said the demonstrators departed in small groups after they were promised safe passage through the heavy police presence.
Catherine Field, a reporter for the British newspaper Observer, said East German authorities arrested three media colleagues at the church demonstration. She identified them as Peter Millar of the Sunday Times of London, Igor Reichlin of the AP-Dow Jones news agency and Gary Matsumoto of NBC Radio Network News. There was no immediate confirmation by authorities.
Police units sealed off an area where people were streaming to watch fireworks marking the anniversary in a move to prevent another mass gathering.
The East Berlin protests were the biggest in the East German capital since a 1953 workers’ uprising. Witnesses said at least 100 people were arrested.
West Germany’s ARD television network said security forces also used violence to break up a protest march by ″several hundred people″ in Potsdam, just outside Berlin.
Violence erupted in Leipzig after about 4,000 people gathered for a pro- reform demonstration in front of the city’s Nikolai church, witnesses reported.
They said police, wearing riot helmets and carrying shields, waded into the crowd of protesters and began beating them.
The demonstrators offered no resistance but shouted ″No violence,″ ″Shame on you,″ and ″Gorbachev, Gorbachev 3/8″ the witnesses said.
″Dozens of people were taken into custody,″ said one witness.
In Dresden, about 2,000 demonstrators battled police overnight and many people were injured, according to witnesses. The number of injuries was not immediately known.
A chain of hundreds of officers attacked the demonstrators, who responded by hurling bottles and other objects, witnesses said.
The street battles lasted for several hours, said the witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It was the fourth straight night of violence in Dresden.
In Berlin, East German authorities barred Western tourists from the city’s Communist eastern sector for a third day.
″East Germany apparently fears that regime critics coming from West Berlin could disturb the 40th anniversary celebrations,″ said West Germany’s ARD television.
On the east side of Checkpoint Charlie, the government early Saturday erected 2-yard-high steel and concrete barriers along the dividing marker between the sectors.
A man from West Berlin with a crowbar hacked and hammered at the metal part of the barriers, tearing down one section. He was later pulled back by West Berlin police.
About 15 East German border guards stood by as a crowd of about 200 taunted them from the Western side.