WARSAW — Thousands of rock-throwing demonstrators battled riot police in Gdansk today, and an estimated 15,000 Solidarity supporters staged a two-hour peaceful May Day march in Warsaw to protest food price hikes and political arrests.
About 500 Solidarity activists chanting "Solidarity!" and "Lech Walesa!" forced their way into the official government May Day parade in Gdansk. They interrupted the parade for 10 minutes by sitting down in the road before being routed by baton-wielding police units.
About a mile from the parade route, 3,000 mostly young demonstrators gathered near the former Solidarity headquarters and hurled stones ripped from the streets at a column of helmeted riot police, Western reporters said.
Several People Injured
The police initially showed restraint but then charged with batons and shields and used water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Several demonstrators and police were injured.
One member of the riot police was beaten to the ground by demonstrators and taken away in an ambulance. A protester who apparently threw a rock at a police vehicle was rammed by a police car and then beaten by riot squads. The protester also was taken away by ambulance.
Scores of demonstrators were arrested in the clash, which lasted more than an hour and left the street littered with stones and debris.
Solidarity leader Walesa attempted to join the government parade in Gdansk but returned home when his way was blocked by hundreds of riot police. "We have no intention of getting into fights," he said. "It's a shame that someone divides us so brutally."
Slogans and Banners
In Warsaw, an estimated 15,000 people chanting Solidarity slogans and carrying Solidarity banners marched past cordons of riot police in a two-hour demonstration before dispersing.
Two senior Warsaw Solidarity activists, Jacek Kuron and Seweryn Jaworski, were detained by police in connection with the "illegal" parade, government spokesman Jerzy Urban said.
Large concentrations of riot police were stationed in other major Polish cities, including Wroclaw, Krakow, and Czestochowa but there were no reports of clashes.
But in the western city of Poznan, riot police used batons to disperse a crowd of about 2,000 demonstrators who tried to march from a Roman Catholic Mass to a monument to workers killed in 1956 anti-government riots, Solidarity sources said.