From Prague (2/2) - Call To Global Action

Published: Mon 9 Oct 2000 12:55 AM
The actions that we will do in Prague under this slogan, and in which we encourage people from all over the world to participate, are the following: * Some persons will enter the jail in Prague voluntarily after doing a previously announced arrestable action. They will refuse to leave the jail until a number of demands are fulfilled (see below). * We propose that people who want to practice civil disobedience but cannot or do not want to go to jail destroy their identity documents (ID card, passport), to show that they refuse to belong to a repressive state, anywhere in the world. * Signatures will be collected under the slogan mentioned above. This will enable also those who cannot or do not want to practice civil disobedience express that for them it is more important to struggle for life and freedom than to be accepted in the dominant system. * We will ask the media to reflect about the role that they are playing in this process of unjustified criminalisation and about the clear relation that (from our point of view) it has with their own past of social struggle to obtain freedom of the press. We will confront them with the fact that far too often it has proven impossible to get a space in the media for people who express opinions radically different from those of the dominant discourse, unless they resort to forms of action that the media considers spectacular enough to be covered. We hope that they will accept the challenge to discuss publicly how issues of representation affect the political praxis of grassroots movements, especially of the movements that, in order to be coherent with their ideas about power, do not want to delegate the role of representation to spokespersons. We will ask them to publish integrally this call to action, to give at least another point of view about what is happening in Prague and in the rest of the world to the people like us, who do not subordinate themselves to the dominant culture.
The immediate demands of those who will practice civil disobedience in Prague will be: * The unconditional release without charges of all the prisoners who are still in jail due to the actions in Prague and the return of all their material belongings. * That the Czech Ministry of the Interior publicly acknowledges and apologises for the criminalisation and the manipulation of information that we have been object of.
Until these immediate demands are fulfilled, the people who go voluntarily to jail will refuse to leave it. Besides these immediate demands, we hope that a broader process of public discussion will make sure that in a short time, the Czech state will compensate all the people who deserve it (due to the unjustified violation of their rights and in too many cases, also of their health) and that a deep and serious adjustment of responsibilities at the Ministry of the Interior and the police takes place, including the dismissal of the Minister. We think that this would be positive for the development of democracy in the Czech Republic, and it would also encourage the authorities and the 'forces of order' of other countries to think about it twice before violating the basic human rights of dissidents.
We encourage the movements, activists and organisations that feel identified with the contents of this call to do their own actions of civil disobedience (8) in order to give visibility to the local cases of criminalisation. Given that what has happened in Prague has a global character, we think that it would be very positive if the local actions would incorporate elements that link them to the repression that is still happening in this city. We hope that our two immediate demands to the Czech state will have an echo in other countries, and that local demands relevant to the each context are added to them. We propose that all groups and movements involved in this campaign adopt the demands of all the other local mobilisations, so that we all participate in all of them. To make this happen, we ask all local movements and groups involved in this campaign to inform about their demands to . We will do a list to inform about the demands, actions and results obtained in different parts of the world.
As possible ideas for actions, besides civil disobedience (going to jail or destroying identity documents) we propose to collect signatures on the slogan of the campaign in order to inform about it; camping in front of the Ministries of the Interior of your country; collective fasts; occupations of Czech (and possibly other) embassies and consulates, many of which are already taking place; visible actions such as banner drops linking local cases of repression to what is happening in Prague; non-violent direct actions against the multilateral institutions accomplices of the repression (like the occupation of the IMF office that took place recently in Geneva); parties; etc.
We have received the news that the movement in the USA has presented a collective demand against the city of Seattle because of the repression of last year. A similar idea would be that organisations from all over the world explore the possibility to do the same thing against the Czech Ministry of the Interior, using fora such as the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice of The Hague, the Human Rights Tribunal of Strassbourg, etc. This would enable us to acquire a collective experience as movement in the use of these instruments, which would help using them against other flagrant cases of human rights violations, even if the only outcome is to question the states responsible for them.
We also encourage persons and organisations that do not agree with all the political contents of this call to action, but who consider that it is necessary to do something against the bulldozing of democracy and basic human rights that we are still experiencing in this city (and all over the world), to participate in whatever way they consider convenient. A possibility would be to support publicly at least part of our demands.
In solidarity, some people in Prague (and other places) _______________________________________
Appendix: the case of Chris Mach ************************** Chris Mach is an artist who, according to her many friends from all over the world, personifies freedom within love and respect. This is the summary of her declaration, done by herself:
'I was violently assaulted by the police on September 26th at about 14:00, while I was completely alone, hiding from the warzone where I had just previously been filming the police brutality against the pink samba band (9). After being beaten and dragged and thrown into the police van backwards and head first, I was taken to the police station in total delirium, remaining till the evening on the floor of my cell. In the police station, like everyone else, I was refused the right to a phone call, the right to know the ID numbers of the policemen mistreating me (although I asked for them several times), the right to receive food, the right to know the reason for the arrest nor a translation for the comments made about me by the police, which surely didn't fall under the obligation of 'respect, regard or dignity' defined by the law. In the night of the 26th I was told that I would be released one hour after paying a fine of 500 Kc, which I did immediately, but the supposed release was just a lie. Excessive force needed no translation, like being handcuffed to benches and walls in completely immobilising positions (as punishment for singing to protest further illegal detainment), being threatened with toxic gases (if I dared to continue) and generally being treated with excessive and totally unjustified violence. The next morning, after going to the toilet I refused to return to the cell and held tight to different objects in order to prevent the police from taking me back to the cell, because I considered my detention illegal since one hour after paying the fine. I was brutally taken back by several policemen, who twisted different parts of my body, bruised me and kicked me around. When they were about to push me back into the cell, I tried to see and asked the badge number of the policeman who was visible to me in that moment, but he quickly covered it, which is why I tried to rip off his number badge. This was the only pro-active move that I made on a policeman, until then I had only offered passive resistance by holding on to objects in order to make it at least harder for them to lock me up again, and this action alone was later to become the twisted accusation of assaulting and injuring the police, although it was only me who received 9 stitches on my hand for trying to get that badge. After 23 hours of cruelty and completely unjustified lack of freedom, I was taken to an interrogation where I was informed of my accusation and further confinement until being sentenced to prison. Out of desperation and fear of further illegal detainment with no means of communication and noone knowing about me, a thought that I could not deal with, I jumped out of the window and smashed my foot to remain irreparable for life, broke my leg (in many pieces), damaged pelvis and hip and broke one vertebra of my spine. I was brought to a hospital where I was inhumanely treated and under constant police observation and severe abuse. I received no pain relieving medicine despite screaming for it, and when the nurses thought that I was screaming too much, they held my mouth shut and shook my seriously injured leg for punishment. Luckily one woman who felt sorry for me (probably one of the nurses from emergency section who saw me before I was taken to the surgery section where the mistreatment happened) replied to my requests to phone a friend, although at that time there was an 'information embargo' on me. This friend tried to visit me and got himself arrested in front of a Danish TV cameraman as a protest because they did not let him see me, and the next day there was plenty of media and more friends at the hospital, which was probably the main reason why I came out of police custody and I was allowed again to communicate again with the outside world. The entire time until just before this happened I was locked into a supply cabinet instead of a hospital room, until just before I finally came out of custody.'
This was the version of the same case given by the Ministry of the Interior on the 28th (a day after Chris' friend got himself arrested in front of a camera):
'Yesterday, 27 September, an extraordinary event happened at local police department of Prague 4. The USA citizen detained because of active participation in demonstrations and questioned of the attack against the public authority, attacked the policemen which were present in the service room. She kicked several times one of him and she smashed his uniform; she was trying to tear the insignias with the service-numbers off the uniforms of the others policemen. That alien was refusing to submit to investigating acts especially to the communication of accusation as well. During the conflict she jumped down off the window in the first floor of the buliding. According to the preliminary information, her leg and spine were wounded. Consequently the medical help and the hospitalisation in one of the Prague hospitals were given to her. The event is investigated by the supervision bodies of the Police presidency. Major Jiri Suttner, Ministerstvo vnitra - Bezpecnostní opatrenr k zasedani MMF a SB 2000'.
What Mr. Suttner does not say is that there is evidence in the police records that Chris was illegaly held by the police in the moment when the 'extraordinary event' took place. Chris' lawyer has had access to these records because she still has to face a court case since she is accused by the Czech state of attacking and injuring several policemen. People from all over the world who have been fortunate enough to meet her know that this is a totally absurd accusation, since Chris loves life and cannot deal with violence and aggression.
Chris' van, which is also her house and the place where she keeps the drawings of a whole life, is still in the possession of the police for absolutely no reason. This proves that the respect that they claim to have for property is only valid for those who adhere to the dominant culture.
(1) We use the term 'peoples' to mean indigenous peoples, gypsies, black communities and other groups of people who have a collective identity that makes them different of the dominant culture, and who have suffered oppression because of that difference in values and worldview. We do not mean with it ethnic or national features, which in our opinion are anyhow quite artificial constructions which end up becoming instruments for domination.
(2) Quoted by the Prague Post, August 2, 2000.
(3) Quoted in Hospodarske noviny, August 1, 2000.
(4) For instance, one of the persons who participated in the destruction of a McDonald's (one of the actions that gathered a lot of attention on the side of media) later crossed the lines of riot police in a moment when nobody, not even the press, was allowed to cross them. The organisation of independent legal observers has pressed charges against this person in order to find who he is, since there is graphic material which could lead to his identification. There are testimonies about people involved in actions of property destruction who crossed the police lines showing some kind of ID cards, and there is graphic evidence of how the plain clothes police arrested people without identifying themselves, which is illegal in the Czech Republic.
(5) See (in Spanish)
(6) In October 99 a fascist demonstration took place in Prague with active protection of the Czech police. The antifascist that tried to block the bridge where the neonazis wanted to cross the river were brutally repressed by the police. There are pictures of the 26th of September where police can be seen chatting in a relaxed mood with skinheads which have slogans about the war and the skin color in their t-shirts.
(7) Index of Human Well-being, UN Development Programme (UNDP)
(8) These proposals emphasise civil disobedience since we believe that the best way to confront an unjust, oppresive and violent power system is to define ourselves in the same terms in which it defines us (in this case, as criminals) and to challenge it to accept the consequences of the public debate that we hope this debate will generate. But this is a subjective judgement which we have no desire to impose on anyone, although we would be very encouraged if people would decide to use it in other parts of the world.
(9) The pink samba band was one of the four clusters of affinity groups that blockaded the conference of the IMF/WB on September 26th.

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