The cell block at D.C. police headquarters, where suspects are held overnight before seeing a judge, has been temporarily shut down so authorities can try to get rid of what a prominent recent prisoner said were too many unauthorized occupants.

After being arrested on Thanksgiving eve in the first of the demonstrations at the South African Embassy, D.C. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy spent the night at the cell block, where, he said last night, he shared lodgings with an infestation of roaches.

In addition to discussing the matter with the police, Fauntroy said, "I spoke to the mayor about it . . . and he moved immediately to see that something was done about it."

Police said that the cell block was temporarily closed to permit painting and insect extermination. No prisoners have been brought there since Friday, police said.

Meanwhile, they said, prisoners are being confined overnight in holding areas at the city's police district stations.

During his stay in the cell block, Fauntroy said, he slept on a steel bunk without mattress or blanket. But he did not complain about that, he said, only about what he jokingly referred to as the "multilegged creatures who invaded my privacy."

Although he has frequently expressed his commitment to the philosophy of protest espoused by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Fauntroy said the cellblock roaches "forced me to lose my commitment to nonviolence."

Citing the stench and the blood-stained walls of the cellblock, an officer familiar with its operation said he was happy to hear of the fumigation, steam-cleaning and repainting.

Saying he was pleased that the conditions in the cellblock are being corrected, Fauntroy, a leader and organizer of the protests against South Africa's policy of racial separation and white minority rule, said "something good has come out of this program [of demonstrations] already."