Small Polish town still dazed from heavy riots
Tumult and shooting, then silence and a kind of siege all came to this little town in southwest Poland's rich copper belt last week.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
On the Aug. 31 anniversary of the Baltic strikes and the birth of Solidarity two years ago, clashes between demonstrators and security forces lasted from dusk till well into the night.
Later, a government spokesman in Warsaw was to place Lubin first among four places hit worst by rioting. Noticeably, he spoke of ''riots,'' and not ''disturbances,'' as they had been blandly described in the government's first self-comforting official report that night.
The troubles erupted again the next day. . . . And the next. . . .
Two workers had died on the first day of riotingwhen police opened fire - in self-defense, it was said - on a mob pelting them with stones and gasoline bombs.
The authorities closed down the town and sealed off entry for traffic from outside. The use of private cars was banned and police patrols checked under the hoods and trunks of any moving car.
When this reporter drove in at the end of the week, the parking lots in front of big apartment blocks on the outskirts were packed with the cars people normally use for commuting to work.
At the first police checkpoint we were waved on, perhaps because of the Wroclaw taxi number. We negotiated three more and had a good look around before being picked up and escorted by police car to local militia headquarters, where we were finally ordered to leave town.
Around town, people still looked dazed by events. There were a lot of relaxed-looking security troops (Zomos) outside the headquarters. Some walked down the street to buy apples and ice cream. At the bus stops, people waited, either in silence or talking very quietly among themselves.
There had been an attempted march on the main party building, with hostile slogan-shouting. It had been checked with tear gas, people said. A move on the town hall ended with fire damage to a book center housed there.
Inevitably, there were rumors that more had died than the two workers from Wroclaw enterprises working in Lubin, but there was no confirmation. There could have been confusion with the seven or eight others who were said to have been wounded.
People wanted to lay crosses and flowers where the two had fallen, but police would not allow it. A soft-spoken woman sadly told of visiting the police for news of her husband. He worked here but had not been home since Tuesday. Her husband was a member of Solidarity, she said, but not a party member. The police had ''no information.''
The official report says 107 persons here were arrested, which is high for a town of this size, although local demonstrators were apparently joined by miners from other centers outside.
In Wroclaw, trouble erupted in no fewer than 38 parts of town last week. There was an ugly scene when some 70 police, it was said, were trapped in the middle of the Grunwald Bridge with a hostile crowd at each end. There seemed to have been no serious casualties.
On Plac Czerwony (Red Square) a tractor across the tracks brought all the streetcars to a standstill.
Eight armored personnel carriers and many other police vehicles were reportedly damaged, along with 24 streetcars that burned. The upturned hulk of a big jeep still laid on a green verge by the main Aleja Slowackiego. The big compound of high-rise student hostels was an armed camp, with Zomos on guard or lounging about.
The nearby town of Legnica, where the Soviet Army has one of its main Polish garrisons, appeared normal, though one found the same silence and muted conversation on the street.
The fact that the arrests in Lubin included 20 teen-agers and 20 college students was of particular note. Almost every official report has spoken of youth as the major element among the demonstrators. Some media comment derides them as ''wyrostki,'' a jeering term for adolescent. Adolescent they may be, but to thoughtful Poles the youth rebellion is not confined to those who demonstrate and reflects perhaps the deepest reality of the present crisis.