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E. German Protesters Vow to Keep Pushing Communist Regime to Reform

September 27, 1989|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

BONN — An East German protest group that mobilized thousands of supporters this week in an anti-government demonstration in Leipzig promised Tuesday to continue to press the Communist regime for political reform.

Earlier this week, two founders of the New Forum group were ordered by the Interior Ministry to stop their reform activities. But on Monday, more than 5,000 people turned out in Leipzig--East Germany's second-largest city--singing "We Shall Overcome" and "The Internationale," the Communist anthem.

The demonstration was described as the largest of its kind in East Germany in several decades.

In a statement Tuesday, the group said, "We have examined the legal situation and have decided to continue New Forum's activities as a political citizens' initiative."

The Communist regime has threatened to crack down on the two-week-old group, which says it has already signed up 4,200 followers. But no move has been made to suppress it.

Leaders of New Forum said in East Berlin that their organization has become the first major protest group in the country to operate outside the protection of Protestant church organizations, which have publicly criticized the Communist regime for its inflexibility.

The East German Interior Ministry has called New Forum an "enemy of the state" and said it could not be registered as a legitimate organization.

In Prague, meanwhile, about 200 East Germans left the West German Embassy after Wolfgang Vogel, an East German lawyer who has arranged a number of important spy swaps, promised they would be allowed to emigrate to the West.

At the same time, however, other East Germans slipped over the unguarded fence into the embassy compound. This kept the number of refugees camping out there at about 1,000.

Czechoslovak border guards have prevented East Germans from fleeing into Hungary and thence across the open border with neutral Austria into West Germany, but there have been no guards around the embassy in Prague.

In all, more than 16,000 East Germans have made their way to West Germany in the weeks since Hungary decided to open its frontier with Austria.

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