Gravestones were " desecrated" by councils officials after they were judged to be unsafe, an MP has claimed.
It follows safety inspections at cemeteries in Cannock, Staffordshire, where a force equivalent to a 35kg weight was applied to gravestones to see if they were unstable.
Those that failed the test were marked with notices similar to a parking ticket and wooden stakes in the ground.
Families were told they must pay for the memorials to be repaired, at a potential cost of £200, or the gravestone would be laid flat on the ground.
Those affected included Maureen Freeman, a retired social worker from Cannock, who was shocked when she went to visit a relative's grave at Cemetery Road Cemetery in the town.
She said: "I was appalled and devastated by what I saw. There were 4ft-high stakes placed either side of almost every headstone in the cemetery."
Cannock Chase District Council said it was following national guidance designed to ensure the safety of the public but yesterday announced it was suspending the testing.
It was criticised in the House of Commons by Cannock Chase MP Tony Wright (Lab).
He said: "The whole scene in the municipal cemetery is one of mass desecration, which is so profoundly distressing to so many people."
The council claimed it was merely following official guidance from the Health and Safety Commission, a Government body, he said.
But Dr Wright added: "The HSC is saying they have issued no instructions."
He warned: "Meanwhile, in all this bureaucratic fog, people are finding the gravestones of their loved ones officially vandalised . . . and they are being told they must pay to have them repaired.
"This is without the courtesy of an opportunity to be present when the testing is being done.
"It is scarcely surprising
that this makes people distressed and angry."
He said he recognised there were genuine safety concerns.
But he asked: "Is the way in which the safety testing of gravestones is being done a proportionate response to the safety problems that have been identified?
"Or are we in a territory occupied by sledgehammers and nuts?"
Work and Pensions Minister Anne McGuire said she agreed some councils had been insensitive.
But she warned: "There have been 21 serious injuries including three deaths in the past six years."
Mrs Freeman has helped lead protests by residents, which led to the issue being discussed at a public meeting on Tuesday evening.
She said: "This is a very emotive subject and an extremely sensitive one. It is a national issue affecting every local authority, but some have dealt with it much better than others. There was an angry meeting, and as a result council has suspended all further activity."
A spokeswoman for Cannock Chase Council said: "We are aware it is a sensitive issue and the testing has been suspended for now. We will be making a further announcement on Friday about how we intend to deal with the issue."