Report From Prague S26
Report from the streets of Prague during the S26 protests
With SQUALL's writers in Prague apparently under arrest, our feedback from the Czech capital has taken a while to come through. Here then is a contemporaneous report from our video activist colleagues from Undercurrents. In the midst of filming the anti-capitalist demonstrations timed to coincide with the meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Martin Palmer and Paul O Conner managed to pen this report for SQUALL.
26th Sept 2000
The images presented to the planet when the International Monetary Fund and World Bank hold their annual joint meetings are not ones of men in suits making key decisions for entire nations. The latest images are now of young people playing drums and waving banners, often lost in smoke and tear gas fired from riot police. Today, as the meetings got underway in Prague's former Communist-era Palace of Culture, a police and army guard set out to ensure the security of the castle as activists have dubbed it. Around 8000 activists are on the streets of the capital of the Czech republic to disrupt the meetings, taking inspiration from the actions in Seattle and Washington DC.
On Sunday the Undercurrents video crew arrived at the Independent Media Center to find police illegally insisting on checking the passports of everyone who arrived. When we refused to give any details and attempted to enter, the police dragged Martin while another grabbed his lens. The independent media responded by putting a dozen cameras in the face of the officers and forcing them to leave.
'Ya Basta!', an Italian network of very together activists, hijacked a train to take them to Prague. 1,200, strong they led one of the three parts of the demonstration. Protesters sorted themselves into three groups with blue, pink and yellow colours for ease of identification and coordination. Flags in the three colours led the march off in opposite directions both to surround the castle and also confuse the police.
At the police barricade on the road bridge opposite the conference center, banners in various languages declared the protests illegal and that force would be used to disperse people. A stand off was the result with the Ya Basta! leading the yellow group trying to push past the police line. Activists succeeded in taking two police batons as souvenirs. Having made their way round to the other side of the centre, the Pink group - consisting of mainly British activists - moved in. With a sound track from a Samba band and activist folk band, Seize the Day, activists got busy with fence cutting. One fence cutter said: "I am doing this to stop people being hurt if the police try to force us into the side."
Meanwhile the downed fence was dragged off to become part of the activists barricades. Police refused to talk despite various musicians trying to open a dialogue. A diminutive middle aged Indian woman from the Narmada dam campaign stood nose to nose with the line of armed & armoured police in gasmasks. The pink group moved past the military tanks, hundreds of armored police, and dozens of army personnel and found a side street blocked only by a thin line of uniformed police. Masked up black clad activists grabbed a metal barrier and ran at the line and a battle ensued with both sides getting stuck in. Sticks and rocks were thrown as police responded with deafening loud firecrackers, smoke grenades, and water cannons. One masked up young man grabbed cameras screaming at the press, both independent and mainstream, to stop filming. Meanwhile the samba band and other activists blockaded the streets forcing a number of delegates cars off the road. One Mercedes had its windows smashed and after making a run for it the suited middle aged male occupants had an undignified clamber over the police barricades to escape.
City centre McDonald's restaurants lost a few windows while taxi drivers complained that activists were targeting them for carrying delegates to and from their hotels. The British group got a call on their mobile from a woman named Estelle. She has a broken arm and head injuries and is hiding in a hospital from the police. Radio and television news is reporting that 25 police officers have been injured. Delegates have been told that they can not leave the conference center as they are surrounded but later reports said that they are being evacuated on trains.
PRAGUE S26 IN THE CITY OF 100 FIRES - Direct from frontline Prague, Si Mitchell sent back this breathless report - 27-Sept-2000
PAIN & PUNISHMENT FOR PRAGUE PROTESTORS - Reports of police brutality against those arrested during S26 demonstration in Prague against World Bank/IMF - 02-Oct-2000
PRAGUE A GO GO BOOM - The IMF and World Bank will hold its 55th annual summit in Prague. Thousands of anti-capitalist protestors will be there too - September-2000.