Planet Waves | Live from Prague


We don't have a budget but we have a reporter in Prague!

Merrick has been entertaining himself and raising hell, not to mention writing to us, from the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meeting now undersay in Prague in the newly re-named Cheque Republic.

Here are two of his recent posts, unedited, nothing fixed, as sent.

Merrick, we love you...

-- ef / p.w.


By Merrick

OK, first things first, this is here to dispel the predictably inaccurate
reports in the corporate media. I've not seen all the UK press yet but
frankly I don't need to. The stuff I have seen is exactly as they always
reports direct action.

Curiously the US edition of the Wall Street Journal reported that there'd
been almost no protest in Prague. The European edition reported full-scale

Wednesday's Guardian had a page 2 article saying 5,00 people were there.
Their page 9 article said 15,000. The page 2 one was hysterical nonsense,
the page 9 one gave a good feel of the day but was filled with fundamental
factual errors and omissions, yet portrayed itself as authoritative.

This is why I don't like working with the corporate media. It's not cos they
are integral to perpetuating capitalism (that's true of all of us). It's
because they will write the same story whether we work with them or not. It
makes no difference whether we interact or what our attitude to them is,
they have predesignated ideas and mechanisms, and working with them does not
change the accuracy or prominence of the reporting.

I've had discussions with people from the UK alternative press about doing a
pamphlet of spoof reports about the next big action *before* it happens. The
Mail and Express will have a picture of a young unshaven man snarling in
mid-throw of a missile at police (preferably with one of those pre-printed
Socialist Worker placards behind him), and a story that opens with numbers
of police injuries and lists of missiles thrown. At the end of the article,
long after most people have stopped reading, they'll have a small mention of
the far greater number of protesters injured. The Guardian will have a
picture of protesters sat in front of a line of tooled-up riot cops, but the
article will be almost identical to the Express. Then they'll have a feature
inside the paper (where far less people read it) that'll be sympathetic, and
a commentary piece saying 'despite the violence these people have a point
you know'.

Trust none of these fuckers. I'll be sensding you a report of what I know
soon. I'm doing this one first cos it's shorter and I've only got 15mins
access to email right now.

In brief; There were about 10,000-15,000 people in four marches. There was
only one serious injusy, and that person is doing fine (thanks to good
organisation on our side, roving medics on bikes!)

There was alot of colourful creativity from all the protesters (2 samba
bands, one decked out in pink and silver outfits!). The WB./IMF conference
centre was surrounded by protesters at a distance of 500m m, and despite the
cops dozens found ways in towards the end of the day. Most protesters were
not Czech, as the Czech activists feared reprisals from the police once
everyone's gone home. The Czechs however led the destruction of corporate
property in the city centre that night (McD's, KFC and banks, but not
touching small and local businesses).

The cops used firecrackers and feeble water cannon. About 50 arrest dutring
the day, and a couple of hundred that night (mostly Czexchs). A number of
prisoners (at least in the dozens) were denied food and deprived of sleep
for their 48 hours in custody, and many were beaten (some being tied up
first) by gangs of cops in the cells. There are also some reports of sexual
abuse of women arrestees.

Some foreigners had their money taken off themn and were driven to the
German border and kicked out with only their passport. Those helsd longer
have been released in Prague this morning with an 'exit visa' (ie 48 hours
to leave the country).

The IMF/WB delegates were not allowed to leave the building. In the end they
were ferried out in ambulances (no protesters would blocade ambulances), and
tgheir social function at the National Operas was cancelled. The talks also
finished a day early, they claim it's not cos of the protests but cos
they've nothing more to discuss. Nice to know they've solved global poverty
and inequality and introduced a unified system of fair freemarket capitalism
without a hitch. If they're that busy and efficent perhaps they deserve to
be running the world.


Next post, same day...

Right then,

There's been a group of people working in Prague for months on
organising/co-ordinating the protests called INPEG. They'd rented an old
empty dusty disused factory as a Convergence Centre, where there were
meetings in the week running up to September 26th (S26). The Dutch activist
caterers Rampenplan did the food, although not before being refused entry to
the country and having to have INPEG make representations to the government.

Activists have been staying all over the city in hostels and rented
apartments, and some took up the camping space in a stadium that the
authorities sanctioned at the the personal behest of President and
often-imprisoned-by-the-Communists bloke Vaclav Havel. Quite what sport is
played at the stadium is uclear, it's got no grass only rock. More like a
gladiator arena really.

There were meetings at the Convergence Centre all day every day (and
meetings about meetings about meetings), with a mass spokes council in the
evenings, sometimes like a normal meeting and sometimes similarly organised
to the Seattle protest. (people assemble in their groups, with one person at
the front to be their speaker. The speakers all face each other in a circle.
It makes things quicker and simpler.

There were a lot of UK activists, a lot of Spanish (especially Catalans),
and many from USA, Germany, Holland, Greece, Italy and Poland and also some
from Norway, Ireland, slovakia and Czech. Reuters reported that the bad
weather was putting many activists off coming. The weather has been lightly
overcast in the morning and sunny in the afternoon every day since Friday.
Lying fuckers.

Many Czech activists supported what was going on, but were scared of
reprisals from the police if they were sen to be involved. The police force
is still to fully realise that the Velvet Revolution took place. There is an
active Secret Police, and acitivsts are frequently harrassed and beaten.

The plan was that there would be a mass meetup on S26 at 10am in a square
caled Namesti Miru, about 2km north of the Conference Centre where the
WB/IMF were meeting. The IMF/WB would already be in the Centre, the plan was
to block them in. The demonstration in Namesti Miru was approved by the
authorities, but not any marches. As soon as people marched out of the
square it would become an illegal demonstration.

There would be three predominant colours of clothing and flags, pink, blue
and yellow. The three colours would take different routes to the Centre.

However, the UK folks had turned up with a load of pink and silver stuff,
but didn't want to be on the pink march (which was going to play it safe and
be largely the international Socialists such as the Socialist Workers
Party). So they decided to be a fourth route, and, unlike the other three,
wouldn't have a predecided route plan.

There was a central communications place called Centrum. They would receive
phone calls from people on the streets and relay the information to other
sections of the marches and the autonomous groups roving the city. Centrum
was to be in a secret location, with a similar set-up in a vehicle ready to
take over should the police raid Centrum.

There were also CB radios and a pirate radio broadcast to help relay
information (the pirates sadly never got up and running), so that if the
mobile phone networks crashed then communications could still happen.

There were also cycle couriers for scouting areas ahead and around marhes,
and also as medics. Cycles are unfollowable by police - they go down alleys
that cars can't follow, and they are too fast for people on foot, and
following on bike would be too conspicuous. I think that once we have our
own cycle medics we are, by definition, rocking.

The total number of people is not reliably reported, but ssems to be between
ten and fifteen thousand. marches went off, the blue west, the yellow south
and the pink and silver south-east. The pink followed on and joined up with
the yellow.

The yellow was largely composed of activists from Ya Basta, a full-on
Italian group. They wear as much protective padding, helmets and gas masks
as the riot cops. They can, and do, behave in the same fast and effective
way at riot cops. When the police blocked their way, they repeatedly charged
the lines, immune to batons, and actually took the batons off the police!

However the road, Legerova, was a four-lane bridge, so the police lines
easily held. But the Yellow line was also easy to hold, and it blocked the
main route north from the conference Centre, crucial to blocking the
delegates in.

The blue route had gone west to the river, then south and were now coming
back in towards the Centre along Vnislavova/Slavojova. The police put
barricade fences in their way, which the marchers charged at and pulled back
into *their* lines to make a barricade. The police charged, and were met
with a hail of cobbles and other missiles. The police responded with loud
firework stun-grenades (nicknamed 'flashbangs') that have a powerful
freak-out panic-causing effect. Several Molotov cocktails were thrown by the
blues, and the police fired CS gas and water cannon. An old woman in a
residential building on the street poured buckets of water on to the police,
while at the back of the crowd an old local man passed cobble stones to the
stone-throwers. The charges went back and forth for an hour or so.

Meanwhile the pink and silver march, led by their own very looud and groovy
samba band had circled clockise round to the south east of the Centre on the
main road south, Kvetna, and were 200m away before they met police lines.
The road was occupied by armoured vehicles and water cannon, so they moved
across to the smaller streets directly south of the Centre, after dploying
the Tactical Frivolity squad to go and dance by the police and dust them
with feather dusters.

The march pushed up to the police lines, the police batoned those at the
front and threw stun grenades, the march retreated then returned and some
missiles were thrown. The police water-cannoned. The water cannon was not as
powerful as it is elsewhere.

This now meant that the Conference Centre was encircled at a distance of

By this time the blue march had retreated to their barricade, and they had a
surplus of people needed to hold it. Half of them went south and round to
join up with the pink and silver. The eastern side of Kvetna later gort
extra numbers from some of the pink Socialist march who weren't needed at
the back of the Yellows.

There was some back-and-forthing for the rest of the afternoon, but
basically these positions held. They were clearly in sight of the delegates
in the Centre - many of whom will have been at the previous WB/IMF/WTO
meetings that have had this reaction.

There were some police with minor injuries, and many protesters with minor
injuries. One protester was seriously hurt in a police baton charge, getting
a head wound and a broken arm. like many she was grabbed by police and taken
tom hospital against her will. This particular woman rang friends who came
and took her to a safe house and gave her attention from a qualified nurse.
Like I said, when we do this stuff we are rocking.

The social event for delegates at the National Opera was due to start at
6pm, but this was cancelled and delegates were ordered not to leave the
Centre. Some Blue group had found a way to the railway running under the
bridge that the Yellow group were blockading. This led them to the walls of
the Centre, which they started to climb. A number of activists - thought to
be in double figures - made it into the Centre complex itself. A few windows
were broken, others spoke to delegates.

Because the roads were closed, the Metro (underground train) station in the
Centre complex was starting to be used to ferry delegates out. Activsts went
to the stations either side and the line was shut down. Eventually, a group
of ambulances were used to ferry delegates out. I mean, not even the
armoured personnel carriers, but hiding behind a Red Cross! This is so
unbelievable cynical! Of course, all protesters cleared the road because
they might have actually been carrying sick people, and the chance couldn't
be taken.

As it got dark people dispersed. In the city centre several hundred people
went to the Opera house until there was confirmation that the delegates
event was cancelled. In Wenceslas Square a number of the protesters joined a
large group of Czechs who systematically trashed McDonald's, KFC and banks.
Other smaller and local businesses were largely untouched.

Over the day there had been dozens of arrests, but in the evening the police
came in in force and the total went quickly up into the hundreds. Figures
released this afternoon by Czech police say 859 arrests in total over the
two days. Of these 230 were foreign and 629 were Czech. 130 of the
foreigners have been deported. They also say that a female Spanish activist
got a broken spine and a broken femur when she jumped from a first floor
window while being interrogated. (Anyone else seen Dario Fo's 'Accidental
Death Of An Anarchist'?).

Some acivists have been released and report hauge human rights abuses. They
were kicked whenever they fell asleep, they were given no food whatsoever,
some were beaten by gangs of police, including some people being tied up
first. some have broken fingers, some have chipped teeth. They have been
held in cells 4m square with over 20 people in. They have been refused legal
advice. All of these things contravene basic human rights and have no place
in a supposedly civilised country. This isn't 1970s Czechoslovakia, this is
2000 in the country that's next in line to join the EU. none of this is
reported over here, and I bet it's not being reported where you are either.

The Czech media have focussed on police injuries. A policeman with a broken
nose is the image we've seen again and again. Of course we can assume
they'll be going for the most dramatic and brutal image they can find, and a
broken nose is the worst they've got. Activists with that level of injury
didn't even go to hospital. Always bear that in mind when you see figures
for police injuries and protester injuries. And yet the protester injuries
are invariably greater. Yet the protesters are criticised for violence. It
was the police who came armed and armoured, the police who dealt the first
blows, the police who inflicted the real injuries. Oh, and the gang of 50
fascists who briefly pelted a march with stones got no mention either.

The WB/IMF cancelled today's meetings saying it was nothing to do with the
protests, honest guv, it was just that they had nothi9ng more to talk about.
Like ten thousand fianciers charged with releiving global poverty and
inequality and securing a global free-trade system have nothing to talk

Today there have been numerous demonstrations in support of those detained,
resulting in at least 30 more arrests.

This email's gone on a long time already, and I've not really discussed any
issues. I just want to know a true story and some real hard facts are going
out there.

M xx


Since 1989 and the end of the soviet Bloc, the GDP of the all the
ex-Communist countries except |Poland has fallen.

A quote from 'Emerging Markets', the daily paper for delegates at the IMF/WB
conference (which incidentally featured a full-page advert headed 'Nigeria's
Privatization: Opportunities for International Investment'); "Many [Highly
Indebted Poor Countries] have seen their fuel import bills triple over the
past 18 months, at a time when world prices for their own agricultural
export earners such as cotton, coffee and cocoa have been depressed"


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