9. The workers returned to their sites late in the afternoon of June 16
By late afternoon, word of the decision to make the work quotas voluntary reached the striking workers, most of whom dispersed peacefully. By the time they dispersed several other issues were included in their protests. Word of the actions in Berlin spread across the GDR rapidly, as it did in Moscow. By late evening, Minister Semyonov informed the SED that Soviet troops, including tanks, were being sent to East Berlin. In turn, Ulbricht directed a massive propaganda campaign, claiming the strike had been the work of foreign instigators. Among the instigators Ulbricht announced was the United States. During the protest on the afternoon of June 16, the Radio in the American Sector (RIAS) broadcast the events live, and continued to report on them throughout the evening. Contained in the American broadcasts were reports the strikers had added “We want free elections” to their demands that afternoon.
The German-language broadcasts that night, which could be heard across a large section of East Germany, shifted to anti-Soviet language. The broadcasts, directed by Program Director Eberhard Schutz, claimed a victory over Soviet domination and encouraged all the people of East Germany to support the protesters. That evening some of the strikers requested RIAS broadcast calls for a general strike the following day. Schutz approved of such an announcement, though Gordon Ewing, the American political director for the station, overrode him. Ewing feared such an overt action would cause the Soviets to respond against West Berlin. By 11 o’clock that night, RIAS began its hourly news broadcasts reporting the workers’ demands for a general strike at 7.00 AM on June 17. It also repeated the demands for general support from the populace, beginning at a gathering at East Berlin’s Strausberger Platz in the morning.