Anniversary protests: 7 October 1989

Despite the wave of refugees, the SED insisted on its ritual celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the GDR. But the population no longer bought the state's artificial projection of a society in perfect order. Tens of thousands took to the streets in protest.

The head of state and the SED Erich Honecker invited special guests to the usual official ceremony, this time marking the fortieth anniversary of the GDR in the Palace of the Republic on 7 October 1989. The state youth organisation FDJ held a congratulatory march with blazing torches on the evening before, and an army parade made a display of its military presence. But the official celebrations did not go undisturbed.

Thousands demonstrated for democratic reforms across the country. State security forces were deployed, and the angry demonstrators shouted, "We're staying here!" and "No violence!". They demanded that the government allow the new movements and parties.

The SED regime reacted with extreme brutality, with armed units violently beating demonstrators in several cities. Many people were injured and there were numerous arrests, yet the population was no longer as easy to intimidate as in the past.

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