The Heavy Hand

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BELGRADE, Yugoslavia: As protests continued peacefully in Belgrade, Socialists in another disputed Yugoslavian town made their defiance of democracy official -- and backed it up with violence. In Smederevska Palanka, 50 miles south of Belgrade, Socialists held the town council's inaugural session in a town hall ringed by police, who kept opposition deputies outside. After holding their own assembly in front of the building to the cheers of hundreds of supporters, the opposition members began a march through the center of town. They were met with the batons of riot police. "Without any provocation or warning, policemen, mostly local, clubbed demonstrators," local opposition leader Dragoslav Travica told The Associated Press by telephone. Fifteen protesters were injured, including Ljubisa Brkic, an opposition member who had been elected to the town's council November 17. In Belgrade, opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, whose forces have themselves endured beatings over the past four days, feared even worse. "Time is running out, and we can't wait forever. . . The fear is great that confrontations might turn into major clashes." Milosevic remains obstinate. But at least in Pirot, a southern Serbian town, there was cause for joy. Opposition members used a temporary majority in the town council to allow the election on Tuesday of Tomislav Panajotovic, the town's first non-Communist mayor since 1920. After a month of blocking marches, Pirot riot police let 5,000 celebrate their victory in peace.