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(en) Czech, Prague [S26-global] - CALL TO GLOBAL ACTION I. (1/2)

From stop.repression@gmx.net
Date Sun, 8 Oct 2000 11:05:20 -0400


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*** PLEASE DISTRIBUTE THIS MESSAGE AND THE NEXT ONE ***


Call to Action Against the Criminalisation and Repression
of Our Movements

Activists from different countries who are still together in Prague
send you this call for action to propose a global campaign
against the criminalisation and repression that is affecting our
movements all over the world. It is a long and dense document,
but we think that it is important that it is distributed and
discussed locally, and we hope that these discussions will result
both in local actions and in collective reflexions about the
consequences of different forms of action, in a context of
increasing interdependency between autonomous collectives
and activists.

The introduction presents our perspective about the general
process of criminalisation at a global level of our movements.
The next paragraphs explain what has happened and is still
happening in Prague, as an example of what we perceive as a
long term strategy, similar to the one used against the
countercultural movement about 30 years ago, and relating it to
the increasingly hard context that affects those who cannot or
do not want to participate in the dominant culture. Following
that, and on that basis, we express in general terms the call for
global action, and as part of that general formulation we clarify
our opinion about 'violence'. The first part of this document
finishes explaining what we see as the long term aim of this call.
In the second part of the document we describe the concrete
action proposals and the short and medium term objectives of
the actions of civil disobedience that we will do in Prague.

If you think that the document is too long, you are welcome to
summarise it, but in this case we would be thankful if you would
include a reference to a web page or publication where the
complete original call can be found.

Salud y suerte.

* * *

"You do not become a 'dissident' just because you decide one
day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it
by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a
complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the
existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them.
It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with
being branded an enemy of society." 

- Written by the Czech president Vaclav Havel, many years
ago...

We are people who struggle for the life and freedom of all
persons and peoples (1). In the process we question the
interests of the powerful, and as a result we are criminalised all
over the world by the state and by most of the media. 

The states are criminalising us through the false information that
they spread in their declarations about us, using the police (as
brutalisation and intimidation tool) and the judicial and penal
system (as the executive arm of punishments whose sole
justification in many cases is only the evidence produced by the
state itself). 

Most of the media contributes to this process by showing in a
sensationalist way only the part of what happens in the street
that fits the preconceptions that they have contributed to
generate, trivialising the motives and values that move us,
presenting us as a homogeneous mass (deliberately concealing
the diversity of thought and action, which for us is a value on
itself) justifying the unleashed repression and ignoring what
happens in the jails.

These two processes combine to create a vicious circle which
provokes an increasingly negative perception of those who
struggle for positive values, resulting in a gradual distancing of
the sectors of society that are not directly involved in processes
of social change. This enables the state to harden the juridical
regime and to define as terrorism activities that have only the
objective of increasing the grassroots participation in political
processes.

What is happening in Prague in relation to the protests against
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank
(WB) is an undeniable example of this phenomenon. These
initiatives taken to criminalise the protests started at the
beginning of the preparation process. They are reflected in
declarations whose objective was to demonize our movement
and to construct a hostile social environment dominated by fear,
in order to prevent the Czech population from participating in or
supporting the protests. The Ministry of the Interior published
recommendations to the population to stockpile food and
medicines, and to the owners of small shops not to try to
defend their business from demonstrators. The schools were
closed for one week and in many cases families were asked to
declare in writing that the students would spend that week
outside of Prague, in order to 'protect' young people from the
protests. The Major of Prague, Jan Kasl, declared that part of
the people who would go to Prague to participate in the
protests 'will kill if possible, if allowed' (2). The tension
generated by all these declarations reached such a level of
intensity that the Czech president Havel, said that the situation
was 'As if we were preparing for a civil war and looked forward
for it being over' (3). 

The stigmatisation of the protesters aimed at preparing the best
conditions for the repression did not just take place at the level
of declarations: a small local protest in Prague in April, in
parallel to the mobilisations in Washington against the IMF and
the WB, was attacked in a totally unjustified way by the police,
with the objective of providing to the press sensationalist
graphic material which would correspond to the public
perception that the Ministry of Interior was trying to create. 

This defamation campaign succeeded in turning the alleged
dangerousness of activists into one of the main issues of public
discussion months before the protests. It successfully
generated fear, distanced the public opinion from the protests,
relegated its motives to the realm of triviality and prepared the
terrain to the state for high levels of repression. The effectivity
of these means of intimidation and oppression is particularly sad
in the Czech context, since it seems to demonstrate how short
time the collective historical memory remains alive. Protests of
the same nature than the ones that took place in Prague from
the 26th to the 28th of September enabled the Czech people to
liberate itself from a Stalinist dictatorship only 11 years ago, but
state intimidation (more elaborate nowadays but not for that
reason less effective) seems to still work as a tool to prevent
higher levels of grassroots political participation.

In the days just before the 26th of September the so-called
'black list' prevented the entry into the Czech Republic of more
than 200 people guilty of terrible crimes such as cooking
organic food or organising public meetings to discuss about
politics. The close collaboration of the Ministry of the Interior
with the specialists of the secret services of several Western
countries (sent to train the Czech police forces) probably helped
to create this list, one more evidence of the global character of
repressive policies.

At the beginning of the action on the 26th, the police had a
tolerant attitude regarding the actions of property destruction;
the legal observers have witnessed situations that make us
conclude that at least part of these actions were previously
prepared by the police (4). In our opinion, this was done to
cater the expectations of the sensationalist press and justify the
atmosphere of fear created in relation to the protests, and in
this way be able to repress us violating our rights and freedoms
without having to worry about the reaction of the public opinion. 

Once this state of opinion was created, the repression came
arbitrarily to anyone who dared to go to the streets in order to
express political opinions. As reported by some foreign TV
stations, even journalists and some people who were not
connected with the protests were beaten up. But the most
serious aspect of repression is what is still happening in the
jails: as reported by the team of independent legal observers,
prisoners are being denied basic human and legal rights, such
as the right to food, to communicate and to have a lawyer. A
large number of people are being beaten up and object of
different degrees of physical and psychological harassment,
which is by itself inadmissible and will hopefully be object of
investigations and punishments that correspond to the gravity of
the events. But the most unexpected and significant
phenomenon brought about by the repression in Prague are the
MASS DISAPPEARANCES. 

Many people have been missing for days and some are still
missing since more than ten days, and their friends haven't had
any news or any opportunity to communicate with them, which
makes the work of legal assistance impossible. The database
of the legal observers has still 70 people with the status of
'arrested' or 'missing', and we cannot know to what extent this
is accurate since the Ministry of the Interior still refuses to make
available the lists of people arrested during the protests. The
first list, without names and very incomplete according to our
indications, was communicated by the Czech embassy in
London (which depends on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to
the British media due to the protests that have taken place in
that country; however, the Ministry of the Interior still maintains
an absolute lack of transparency, characteristic of dictatorial
regimes. The only institutions that seem to be able to receive
information are the embassies of the countries where the jailed
persons come from, but some of them (particularly the US,
German, Spanish, Polish, Hungarian and Rumanian embassies)
have clearly proven their lack of interest in human rights
violations and in transparency. For instance, the reply of the civil
servant who replied to the call of friends of the two persons
from Madrid arbitrarily arrested in the street was 'it is your
problem!' (5). The lack of consideration on the side of several
states for the basic rights of those who are suffering this
disproportionate repression has enabled the brutality in prisons
and hospitals to take place in absolute impunity, and all this is
being suffered by human beings, by flesh and bones.

As a whole, the situation in Prague is of total hypocrisy: the hot
image given about the 'violence' in the streets, incomplete and
partially faked, is opposed to the cold invisible reality of what
happens out of the reach of the cameras, when the detained
remain at the mercy of police torture. Then comes, silently, the
true and terrible criminal violence.

The independent legal observers are preparing a preliminary
report with detailed information about documented cases of
human rights violations in police stations and jails. Right now we
will only report the well documented case of the atrocities
suffered by Chris Mach (whose official name is Sylvia Yolanda
Mach), as an example of how far the perversity and treachery
of the state can go. You will find a summary of her case in the
appendix.

Chris is only one example, there are still far too many people in
jail. Besides the 70 persons that are possibly missing, we can
say with founded certainty that there are at least 2 Czechs, 5
Rumanians, 5 Hungarians, 1 Ukrainian, 3 Germans, 2 Danish, 2
Spanish, 1 Polish and 1 Austrian in custody, but we don't know
how many more people are in the same situation without
nobody knowing about them. The Ministry of the Interior's only
comment is that as far as their information goes there have
been no abuses and that the moment they hear about one, they
will act on it. But we are concerned, particularly about the
members of ethnic minorities, since there is enough evidence
about the symbiotic relationship between at least part of the
Czech forces of order and fascist organisations (6). What is
happening in Prague is clearly the continuation of the most
detestable practices of authoritarian regimes which we were
hoping to be part of the past.

Sadly, most of the media have until now faithfully responded to
the propaganda of the Ministry of the Interior: presenting the
protest as quasi-terrorist acts, ignoring their motives and the
diversity that they embodied, reporting in a partial and very
limited way about the state violence, presenting it as necessary
and legitimate, and in the case of some media, even as
insufficient. Most media also took the information and statistics
given by the Ministry for granted. However, the case of Chris
Mach demonstrates that there are more than enough reasons to
look at them as one more element in the state propaganda,
since at least the three policemen that she is accused of having
injured (and who are part of the statistics, we suppose) were
never assaulted by her: just the opposite took place, with
terrible consequences for her health. 

Thirty years ago, secret services from all over the world used
criminalisation strategies that were very similar to those used in
Prague (along with the massive introduction and illegal fostering
of the use of drugs, especially on the side of the FBI) to
dismantle a living and participatory grassroots countercultural
movement that had become a serious challenge for the system.
In Prague there has been in the last months an extraordinary
concentration of secret services and 'intelligence' of diverse
Western countries, working closely together with the Czech
Ministry of the Interior. If the final aim of this large security
set-up (in which the Czech Republic and several other countries
invested time and resources) really was to maintain law and
order in this city during the meeting of the IMF and the WB, we
have to conclude that they failed at all levels, both in the streets
and in the police stations, prisons and hospitals. 

But given the amount of time and resources that they devoted to
prepare for the 26th, we don't believe that this is the case. We
cannot prove it, but in our opinion the objective of the police
operation in Prague was to carefully manage the public opinion
(with the active help of some media), with the purpose of
legitimising hard and illegal methods of control and repression
during the protests, and advance in the preparation of the
conditions for the global criminalisation of our activities. As part
of this, we believe that the repression in Prague has been used
as a laboratory to test how far it is possible to take hard and
openly illegal methods of oppression such as mass
disappearances, a very sad memory that all those who suffered
them will take from this city.

The very same process is taking place all over the world in
diverse local contexts, but due to the same reasons and using
the same strategies. In the next days we will send out more
information about concrete and much harder examples than
what happened in Prague, for instance what is happening in
Bolivia, where the actions organised by peasant movements
against the privatisation of water and land ended with 11 death
and hundreds of wounded, and in Colombia, where the already
appalling levels of state and parastatal violence will soon be
complemented with the military help and direct intervention of
US troops, recently approved by the Congress under the name
of Plan Colombia. 

At a more general level, one of the concrete results of
criminalisation of the processes of social change is the
hardening of the juridical systems of the whole world, which
results into the progressive elimination of the rights and
freedoms obtained after centuries of social struggle. The new
British antiterrorism bill recently approved by the labour
government, a great step towards the silent and slow
institutionalisation of a 'permanent state of emergency',
exemplifies this tendency which can be observed all over the
world.

At a deeper level, the global criminalisation of social change is
clearly associated to the criminalisation, also at global level, of
poverty. More and more people all over the world see
themselves immerse in a vicious circle of poverty and
'criminality' provoked by the lack of alternatives, by a system
that feeds itself on destroying the livelihoods of millions of
people in order to concentrate more and more wealth in a few
hands. But capitalism has demonstrated that it has enough
flexibility to take advantage even of this kind of situations. For
instance, the two million persons in the jails of the USA (mainly
blacks and latinos) provide the main 'raw material' of the private
prison industry, one of the most rapidly expanding economic
branches due to the conditions under which the prisoners work.
For these human beings, the processes of 'liberalisation'
imposed by the global economy through the IMF, the WB and
other illegitimate institutions express themselves in the
destruction of their livelihood, in the pseudo-slavery that they
are subjected to due to the obsession to manage prisons with
entrepreneurial criteria and in the structural racism that is openly
exposed as soon as one looks at who is being exploited and
who benefits.

In the light of these connections, we see clearly the multiple
relations between the repression that we experienced in Prague
and the everyday plight of emigrants whose economies have
been destroyed by economic globalisation, and who are
illegalised by the system when they seek refuge in the countries
that concentrate their wealth. They are criminals by juridical
definition, although the only thing that they are looking for is an
exit to the desperate situations created by global capitalism.
They are confronted on a daily basis with the violence and the
racism of rich states whose main concern seems to be
maintaining their privileged classes immersed in an empty and
meaningless consumerist banquet, which can only be sustained
as long as the access is limited to those who have the right
passport and were lucky enough not to be among those without
place in the table.

The main reason why we have been criminalised in Prague is
that we reject the banquet and are not ready to discuss about
this rejection with the organisers. We were not surprised by the
fact that we have been repressed, since we are used to it, but
the levels of perversion, state violence and manipulation of
information reached in Prague are going far beyond our
expectations.

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