The NATO summit in Prague (November 21-22) has been met with a week of protests under a broad platform. A peaceful atmosphere was maintained. |
Respekt magazine, a left-wing newspaper, stated that there are 8,000 policemen in Prague, with an additional 3,000 riot cops in Darth Vader party suits on standby to protect the Congress Centre, where Thursday and Friday delegates from 50 odd countries (including George Bush and his cronies) are meeting for the official NATO summit. Respekt also noted that 2,000 people are under surveillance. The corporate media has done a disgraceful job of creating a tense atmosphere on the streets, so much so that public fears of violence have risen from 30% a few weeks ago to 80% now.
One newspaper also colluded with the police in trying to smear an IMC journalist by declaring him to be one of the foreign 'organisers' of the antiNATO demonstrations who posed as a journalist, even going so far as to post a photograph of him. The secret services have been following members of the IMC editorial group and cack-handedly listening in at public meetings and internet cafes. One cafe owner was approached by two men who flashed CIA badges and offered a cash sum of 50,000 Kc (1,700 Euros/Dollars !) if he would supply all the information handled by the IMC journalists.
Meanwhile in many places in the world, countries like Angola and Colombia, this sort of situation continues to be normal. This is just a taste of what militarism feels like on the streets of Prague.
Meanwhile, a huge red neon heart hovers above the city beside the castle. It's an insult, it feels like the city council is welcoming NATO with open arms and this heart which says 'we love militarism', whilst its citizens are in a police state. Unsurprisingly, the antiNATO convergence centre was quickly closed down .
Meanwhile, the average response of the Czech on the street is 'I don't care about NATO'. This same answer comes from old ladies, sixteen-year old school kids and thirty-year old businessmen, even though as Nelson Mandela has said recently "If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace" and NATO is one of the military tools at Bush's disposal. Still, in the face of general apathy, the antiNATO summit has gone very well. It started in Prague on Sunday (November 17, also International Students' Day ) when a group of 300 peoplefollowed the route which students took in 1989 as they marched in protest against communism. This event was generally considered one of the triggers of the Velvet Revolution. Despite the presence of lots of cops and a understandably nervous air at the beginning, the march, this time around to protest against thirteen years of capitalism, proceeded without incident, setting the tone for the rest of the week.
On Monday 18 November, the IMC Prague group held a film night at the Jeleni arts centre, which was well-attended. They showed three films, one about the CIA-sponsored School of Americas, the other two giving different views on the World Bank / IMF meeting (2000) protests in Prague. Next on Wednesday, the NATO delegates arrived to a lavish dinner at the Obceni Dum. Food not Bombs distributed free food to an estimated 300 people, and the numbers swelled to 500 during a spirited noise demo. Then came the main demonstration, which met at 14.00 on Thursday (November 21) at Namesti Miru and drew about 1,300 protestors, who marched in good spirits despite the cold. Again there were no violent incidents, although some were unhappy at the rather intrusive behaviour of photographers from the corporate press and it seems there were attempts at sabotage (eg a police car 'lost' in the middle of the crowd, although others would say that the policeman really did manage to be in the wrong place at the wrong time !).
Finally on Friday (November 22), there was another smaller march. Other events included a netstrike, internet radio, and some heavily policed affinity actions (reports here and here).
It's been reported in the press that 300 people had been turned back at the borders, but this was an eventuality that had been prepared for, so there were border solidarity groups in Germany, Austria, Poland and Slovakia to help those refused entry to the Czech Republic. In terms of arrests, contacted on Friday, OPH (the Czech legal observer group) say they are not aware of any arrests, although two Polish people were controlled by police and each declared persona non grata.
So, as the NATO summit finishes, it would seem that the antiNATO campaign has been carried out with a fair amount of success, withstanding various attempts at harassment and sabotage, with the message of peace conveyed to all who are interested to listen.
Nonviolent direct action works !
Solidarity actions have been held in Brno (Czech Republic),Jihlava,(Cz) New York City (USA),Vienna (Austria), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Bratislava (Slovakia).
Further info :
Czech and Slovak Anarchist Federation
Student 'Independent' Reporting
ALARM (in czech only)