Anti-Sandinista youths this week took over about 14 high schools in five Nicaraguan cities - underscoring a deepening polarization that is beginning to emerge in shows of opposition to the three-year-old Sandinista government.
The largest protests occurred in Masaya - the city that preceded the rest of the country in 1979 in rising up against the Somoza dictatorship.
Three persons were killed here and at least six injured as demonstrators streamed out of the Roman Catholic Salesiano High School Aug 17 to confront police and Sandinista supporters in the streets.
The disturbances showed that vocal opposition to Sandinista rule is growing, but a massive police reaction to quell the violence shows the Sandinistas are ready to meet the opposition.
The government had previously banned public political rallies. Believing the United States is attempting to destabilize their rule, Nicaraguan leaders have extended a state of emergency - restricting civil liberties and imposing press censorship - until next year.
Police accused the ''Catholic educators' federation of Nicaragua'' of helping to organize the protests. They arrested one priest from Costa Rica and another from Spain.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Miguel Obando Bravo countercharged that the police were putting on a ''show to slander the church.''
Before occupying Masaya Catholic high schools, some of the protesters burned a Sandinista defense committee office and police station. In most of the cities, student demonstrators were joined by other local residents. Most of the students attended private Catholic high schools and are from the middle and upper classes.
The youths say they support the opposition Nicaraguan Democratic Movement (MDN), which is headed by former junta member Alfonso Robelo Callejas and backed by revolutionary war hero Eden Pastora Gomez.
But they say the direct reason for demonstrations this week is alleged government and police mistreatment of the Rev. Bismarck Carballo, who was picked up on the street completely naked, in the company of a naked woman.
Fr. Carballo, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Managua, said a man had attacked him and his lunch partner Aug. 11, then forced them to strip at gunpoint before taking them to jail. Government television showed a film clip of the pair and suggested the priest had been attacked by a jealous husband. The youths also contend the incident is an attempt by the government to discredit the church.
Some observers here say the level of disruption that followed this week's demonstrations has not been seen in Nicaragua since the revolution. In Masaya, demonstrations continued through the night of Aug. 17. Army troops surrounded the area of the high school, making arrests and capturing arms. Volunteer militia members came out.
Clashes are occurring daily between well-armed counterrevolutionary groups along the borders and in remote regions.
Robelo and Pastora are calling for an insurrection against the Sandinistas. Robello told the Monitor revolt is imminent.