The Guardian October 4, 2000


Czech Republic: "Stop the IMF!"

Ten days of demonstrations against the IMF/World Bank summit in Prague 
last week ended with the number of arrested protesters rising to 858, more 
than 500 of them Czech citizens.

Over the ten days, beginning on Saturday September 16, there were more than 
200 events, including demonstrations, information campaigns, an art 
festival and a counter-summit focusing on economic globalisation, ecology, 
labour and grassroots organisations.

The aim of organisers was to stop the summit by peaceful mass civil 
disobedience in the form of a blockade of the conference venue and the 
hotels where the delegates were staying. But they failed to mobilise the 
necessary forces.

The largest of the protests on Saturday September 23 (S23) against 
capitalist globalisation was organised by the left-wing Stop the 
IMF! campaign. It was attended by 5,000 mostly young demonstrators from 
all over Europe and Turkey. Red flags, many of them carrying the hammer and 
sickle, predominated.

Speakers at the hour-long rally, which was chaired by Josef Gottwald of the 
Czech Republic's Communist Union of Youth (KSM), included Miroslav 
Grebenicek MP, chair of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), 
and a leader of the large delegation from the Italian Refoundation 
Communist Party (PRC).

There were at most 10,000 Czech and foreign demonstrators in Peace Square 
for the anti-IMF march on the following Tuesday (S26).

The Czech state turned out more than 12,000 police and soldiers whose 
hardware included helicopters and armoured vehicles.

In the run-up to the summit the Czech Social Democratic Government had so 
terrorised the populace of Prague by its semi-military preparations and 
stories of imminent invasion by up to 50,000 "foreign extremists" bent on 
violence that the city was like a ghost town on the morning of September 
26. This was the main reason why the summit was not stopped.

But the actions were not without their successes.

The 15,000 delegates to the 55th annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank 
were forced to end the first day of their summit early.

A gala reception planned for the Tuesday evening was cancelled after 1,500 
demonstrators blocked the entrance to the venue, the State Opera House.

The numerically smaller Czech and international opponents of capitalist 
globalisation, mobilised by the Initiative Against Economic Globalisation 
(INPEG), outwitted and often outfought the FBI-coordinated forces of "law 
and order". 

Attendance by delegates on the Wednesday was restricted after the previous 
day's demonstrations.

About 300 would-be protesters were denied entry by the Czech Aliens' Police 
 many of them because they figured on a list of "undesirables" compiled 
by the Czech police, with the help of the globalised FBI's Prague office 
and Interpol. 

One hundred-and-forty demonstrators were injured as a result of police 
violence, with a total of 10 police and 10 demonstrators hospitalised.

The injured police were visited in hospital by the IMF's Director General 
and Czech President Vaclav Havel who congratulated them on their "courage 
and professionality".

The American-owned weekly The Prague Post included a graphic account 
of the police violence in Wenceslas Square on the Tuesday evening, when 
police swept the Square using dogs, tear gas and concussion grenades.

"Demonstrators, restaurant patrons and bystanders ran to adjoining side 
streets in an attempt to escape the police, who grabbed and beat people as 
they ran.

"Bystanders caught in the crossfire were bewildered. `I was just having a 
bloody coffee!', said one British tourist ... Police continued, shoulder to 
shoulder in a riot line ...

"The police lines stood silently for several minutes, terrifying the crowd, 
many of whom darted into doorways and passages seeking refuge. After 
ordering the press to leave, the police closed in and began systematic ID-
checks and arrests", said The Prague Post.

The independent monitoring group Citizens' Legal Patrol has produced video 
and eye-witness evidence that police agents provocateurs were 
directly involved in the violence.

The video evidence, corroborated by observers, shows police agents dressed 
up as demonstrators being allowed through police lines on production of 
their identification.

The BBC's World TV man in Prague reported that he had seen police officers 
dressed up as protesters leaving the vicinity of the IMF conference venue 
during the day.

INPEG's aim for a peaceful blockade of the conference venue was disrupted 
by anarchists and ultra-leftists.

Solidarity appeal

INPEG has issued an appeal for solidarity, over the human rights violations 
of people arrested in the protests. "People have no rights, they are being 
beaten severely, they are disappearing. Women are being forced to strip in 
front of male guards and perform exercises. People with serious medical 
problems have been denied help...", says INPEG.

"30 people inside the jails have been denied food, water and sleep. We have 
reports of people having limbs broken and teeth knocked out. One woman has 
a broken spine. There is clear evidence of torture by the police."

INPEG is asking people to call or fax the following numbers and demand that 
these violations cease, and that all prisoners be given access to water, 
food, medical attention, phone calls, and legal assistance.

Office of President Vaclav Havel:
phone: + (4202) 2431 0855
fax: + (4202) 2437 3196
e-mail:  president@hrad.cz

Ministry of the Interior:
Phone: + (4202) 6142 1115
Fax: + (4202) 6143 3552-3

* * *
The above report is compiled from daily reports by Ken Biggs, Editor of Postmark Prague. The October issue of Postmark Prague will include reports of last week's events. Readers can get a free copy by writing to PP, PO Box 42, 182 21 Prague 8, Czech Republic, or by e-mailing arkprague@cmail.czo

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