Saturday, December 17, 2011

From the archives: Undercurrents report live from Prague 26 Sept 2000

Undercurrents report live from Prague 26 Sept 2000
By Martin Palmer and Paul O’ Connor,Undercurrents

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 the Undercurrents reporters 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 colour’s for ease of identification and cordination. 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 was round to the other side of the center 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 activist’s 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 & armored 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 delegate’s 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 center McDonalds 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.

We finished the article with the following...
'Undercurrents video reports are due as soon as we can sort out the chaotic Internet connections in Prague'

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions. http://www.undercurrents.org

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