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EAST GERMAN POLICE BEAT DEMONSTRATORS

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Hundreds of East German police and army troops used rubber truncheons early Monday to disperse anti-government protests in East Berlin, leaving several demonstrators injured, witnesses said.

Thousands of opponents of East Germany's hard-line Communist government also took to the streets Sunday night and early Monday in Dresden, Karl Marx Stadt and Plauen, where they too faced a massive police deployment, sources said.The demonstrations were considered East Germany's largest since the uprising of June 17, 1953, when 300,000 workers demanded "bread and freedom" in 270 cities and towns. That revolt was crushed by Soviet tanks and troops.

In contrast, this weekend's demonstrators were emboldened by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's visit Saturday, and apparently further provoked by East German leader Erich Honecker's rejection of Gorbachev's suggestion that East Germany adopt political reforms.

Several demonstrators were reported arrested in the overnight crackdown on dissent, but witnesses said they were unable to estimate the number of people detained.

"No violence! No violence!" shouted about 1,000 people in East Berlin as uniformed police backed by army troops and plainclothes agents moved in to break up the gathering, clubbing the demonstrators with rubber batons, sources said.

The protest began Sunday evening when security forces surrounded Berlin's Gethsemane Church, where about 4,000 people were holding a vigil for political prisoners, including several hundred arrested in weekend demonstrations.

Police blocked off all roads leading to the church and for several hours prevented the protesters from leaving. A group of about 1,000 demonstrators gathered outside the police barricades but were not permitted inside.

Witnesses said several demonstrators outside the church were beaten by plainclothes police and forcibly dispersed early Monday.

Authorities also sealed off several public areas of East Berlin, including the vicinity of the Gethsemane Church and Alexander Plaza, where thousands of demonstrators gathered during Gorbachev's visit.

Opposition leaders said the time has come for the hard-line Communist government to respond to the will of East German citizens.

"We have a duty to define the word `socialism' so that it becomes an acceptable concept to the people," an opposition spokesman told the church gathering.