What's Going To Happen In Prague?

Published: Wed 13 Sep 2000 01:53 PM
The most visible signs of the IMF/WB 55th annual summit 26-28th September 2000 in Prague at present are the large Audi /VW clock stockmarket-inspired adverts stating their sponsorship of the event. Also the Czech media has been running a harsh publicity campaign against INPEG - Initiative Against Economic Globalisation - a coalition of Czech environmental, human rights and autonomist groups planning protests September 21-28th. The work of the protestors from INPEG and a network of forty to fifty countries has gone on quietly at the same time as Czech and international secret police operations.
INPEG plans a week of protests, education and outreach programs to coincide with the summit. IMF/WB events begin September 19th. INPEG has stated clearly that their protests will be non-violent. Their actions during the week 21-28 will focus on particular issues. September 21st will be World Day without Cars, with the issue of the day ecology. September 22nd focuses on social rights and is the beginning of the Counter Summit, a 3 day forum, with a critique of the IMF and WB and structural adjustment programs (harsh conditions which countries accepting IMF/WB loans have to accept which ensure that the IMF and its investors get something in return) and discussion of existing alternatives by Czech, E. European and international philosophers, economists, sociologists, writers, trade unionists, representatives of radical political groups and social movements. The issue of the 23rd is power and corresponds with the meeting of G7 and NGO talks at the Castle. 24th concentrates on debt and poverty and has the Jubilee 2000 demonstration. From the 22nd-24th 'The Art of Resistance' festival will also take place as a platform for creativity and desire for social change with street theatre, music, puppets to educate and entertain. On the 24th will be a street parade, a finale to the Counter Summit, featuring puppets and theatre through the streets of Prague, ending in a huge celebration. The 25th is human rights day. September 26th is a Global Day of Action - a worldwide protest against economic globalisation - to unite all the issues of the week and mobilise international protestors in direct action both in their own countries and in a protest march in Prague.
Through a series of national and international meetings and email communication INPEG has been organising these events in as democratic way as possible giving voice to the many different participating groups. At the international meeting 18-20th August held at the Prague City Ecological Centre I witnessed how great care was taken to enhance communication with regular change of meeting facilitators across groups, use of a meeting sign language etc trying to reach consensus and allowing participation of all groups in the organisation and coordination of the protests. INPEG has given a statement that it does not support the initiation of violence against people, animals or property and that it will support affinity groups whose actions fall in line with INPEG guidelines. At the same time they support citizens' democratic rights to demonstrate and oppose any measures taken by any authorities to prevent people from exercising this right.
Related actions in Prague during this time will be held by groups such as 50 Years is Enough Network, Jubilee 200, World Bank Bonds Boycott, Peoples Global Action Network, and the Christian Peace Conference. Throughout Europe and in other countries there will also be many Prague solidarity actions taking place such as the S24 Brighton Conference, a French action-information caravan (Reseau sans Titre), a street party in Belgium on 22nd, a bike caravan from Hannover starting 9th September arriving in Prague 21st September (World Car Free Day), a Jubilee2000 solidarity event in Seattle 24th September with a march and human chain for debt cancellation at the Federal Reserve Bank, AWAMI People Caravan in Pakistan starting 23 September, etc. These groups share the same criticisms of IMF/WB policies which have consistently favoured the interests of transnational corporations over the needs of the hundreds of millions of working people in the developing world and the US. The IMF and WB are the world's biggest loan sharks: the strings attached to their loans tie these countries to policies that increase poverty, environmental destruction, and human misery.
On 25th August two leftist Czech groups went on hunger strike in Wenceslas Square in the centre of Prague to alert the public about spreading hunger and malnutrition in various parts of the world. Activists from the 'Food not Bombs' initiative and the Czech Anarchist Association blame the IMF and WB for the situation believing it is capitalism and not food shortages which is responsible.
Despite INPEG statements and publicising their actions, Czech newspapers have persisted in spreading alarm telling Prague residents to barricade their doors and windows against 'barbarian protestors' and suggesting that people will be killed. Czech secret police are monitoring protestors' websites and INPEG members and meetings. The international meeting was held in full expectation of police infiltration. Earlier this year 24 senior Czech officers were sent to the FBI's headquarters in Washington for training and 3 months ago FBI director Louis Freeh went to Prague to discuss police planning against the demonstrations. Early in August Scotland Yard sent officers to Prague for two days of talks with police chiefs and there and Special Branch and Interpol are liaising with Czech secret police hoping to identify protestors. 11,000 police have been assigned to the event and 5,000 soldiers will be on standby. The summit is due to be attended by 23,000 delegates and politicians (world bankers, economists and financiers) all representing global capital.
The Seattle experience showed how police over-reaction to non-violent demonstrators was rampant. In Seattle several African WTO delegates were arrested mistakenly as protestors, and after they revealed their cruel treatment by police officers and publicly declared themselves to be on the side of the protestors. Some hope for justice in Prague may lie with the group of Independent Legal Observers (OHP) who will monitor the protests and try to protect the rights of the protestors. The OHP is an independent body funded by two NGO's concerned with human rights and law, consisting of lawyers and advocates. They are in negotiation with the Czech Ministry of the Interior and a representative spoke at the international INPEG meeting in August. They will be clearly evident in the demonstrations in turquoise blue vests.
With their vast economic and manpower resources resources it seems ridiculous that the authorities are frightened of the demonstrators. Media manipulation is just another of the many tools the IMF/WB have to quash interference in their decisions. Despite the growing IMF/WB protests worldwide protesting organisations can only organise at grassroots level and have minute resources in comparison to the organisations they are fighting. It is a remarkable feat of human endeavour and desire for social change that protestors have achieved what they have and that their influence is spreading. The power of the unity of so many diverse groups against capitalism and its supporting organisations despite the opposition they face is inspiring and the spirit of what INPEG wants to celebrate through the Prague protests.
At present INPEG plans for the Internationalist Global Day of Action on the 26th September are for autonomous actions by participating groups in the morning and a march in the afternoon from the park Namesti Jiriho z Podelad to the Congress centre (site of the summit) via Namesti Miru. Participating groups are all mobilising their own countries' demonstrators arrival and convergence in Prague. However police permission has to be given for the march, demonstrators could be refused entry at the border, and police could ask demonstrators to disperse at any time. This is the first such meeting in Central and Eastern Europe. There are many unknowns and it is vital for INPEG and attending groups to be able to coordinate. INPEG websites for information are and INPEG is a platform for all organisations and individuals who want to say no to the IMF/WB and join the struggle for global justice; the more people who associate themselves with them the louder this voice will be.
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