LEIPZIG, East Germany -- Security forces broke up a candle-lit protest march in East Berlin on Sunday as ordinary citizens here and in other cities deplored the brutal police suppression of peaceful demonstrations that called upon East Germany's hard-line regime to undertake political reforms.
Despite chants by the marchers in East Berlin of "No violence! No violence!" police snatched some participants from the 1,500-strong march, beating them on the head with truncheons, witnesses said.
Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who took part in the weekend's 40th anniversary celebration of the founding of the East German state.
Gorbachev a Hero
Gorbachev has emerged as a hero to the East German people through his effort to democratize Soviet life, which has led to liberalization in other East Bloc countries. East Germans have been demanding similar reforms for their own country, but the regime led by 77-year-old Erich Honecker has refused to budge.
The demonstrations compounded the embarrassment of the Honecker regime, already smarting over the flight of about 45,000 East Germans to the West in recent weeks.
In the East Berlin protest, the demonstrators chanted "Freedom! Freedom!" after attending a service at the Lutheran Gethsemane Church, a center for the nation's budding reform movement.
Police blocked the demonstrators as they marched along nearby Schoenhauser Allee on Sunday night and ordered them to disperse. The police demands were drowned out by chants of "We are the people! We are the people!" Residents in the area went to their balconies and windows displaying lighted candles in a show of solidarity with the demonstrators below.
Many of the demonstrators obeyed the police order, but some did not. It was then that police waded into the throng, swinging their clubs. Similar attacks by police occurred here and in Dresden.
The East Berlin demonstrators had gathered at the Gethsemane Church to pray for the 700 people church sources said had been rounded up by police during the weekend demonstrations.
"Many more than usual have come because since yesterday (Sunday), something has happened in this country and many people say it just cannot continue like this," a pastor told the congregation.
Citizens interviewed in East Berlin, Dresden and here in Leipzig vowed they will continue to call for reforms--despite the police attacks.
The events of the past few days presaged a calculated police crackdown on dissenters, observers said, no matter how peacefully the protests may have been conducted.
An observer from West Berlin, who traveled through East Germany, put it this way Sunday: "These are protests from people who have been quiet for years and decided to say something in public--because they couldn't take it any longer.
"Ironically, the police are beating up the citizens who want to stay," the observer added, "not those who want to leave" their country for the West.
Here in Leipzig, East Germany's second city, the scene outside the Protestant Nikolai Church on Sunday afternoon seemed to crystallize national resentment against the tactics of the police and local militia forces.
Bouquets of flowers were placed under the stained-glass windows and lighted candles served as a vigil of remembrance around the Baroque old church, which has served as a focal point for peaceful protests here.
Witnesses here said Sunday that as many as 20,000 marchers formed on Saturday, before the demonstrations were broken up by stick-wielding security forces accompanied by Alsatian dogs.
Outside the church, waiting for it to open for 5 p.m. services, dozens of Leipzigers gathered, muttering and grumbling about the outcome of Saturday's demonstration.