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(en) prague 2002 - media manipulations, police repression and non violence

From Erik Valencic <atgeric@yahoo.com>
Date Wed, 4 Dec 2002 04:49:38 -0500 (EST)


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Salud, 
I have written a report about the situation, which
occured in Prague during the antiNATO protests. It is
based upon my own experiences and thoughts. I have
deliberately concentrated on the czech corporate media
manipulations and the repression of the state, because
I know that a lot has already been written about the
demos and there is little sense in repeating things
that have already been said. I have written this
report for bluegreenearth.com, but should anyone
desire to distribute or publish it anywhere, do so.


ANTINATO PRAGUE 2002


"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 Checz president Vaclav Havel,
                            many, many years ago...   

 (taken out of Restructuring and Resistance, page 431)


Vaclav Havel, once a dissident himself in the times of
the communist rule, knew what he was talking about. He
was being persecuted by the Soviet regime, because he
was challenging its walls of totalitarianism with the
principals of freedom and democracy. After the fall of
communism, which was marked by national 'velvet'
revolutions, drastic changes occured in Eastern and
Central European societies and old dissidents became
the architects of the new social dominion. But as
history has been teaching us over and over again, new
dominions always breed new dissidents. Some things
obviously never change and the persecution of any kind
of minorities (racial, political or intelectual) never
stops. Today, whoever wants to raise his or her voice
against the capitalist globalisation/exploitation and
non compromising militarisation of our world, that
person has to be prepared in advance to deal with
criminalisation and persecution of his or her own
ideas. Whenever, wherever,...


NATO Summit, which took place in Prague from 21st to
22nd November, prooved just that. Peace activists and
activists for global justice (mostly anarchists), who
occupied the streets of Prague in order to protest
against militaristic and imperialistic politics of
NATO alliance, were entirely brought face to face with
the definition of being a dissident, as described by
Vaclav Havel. Nonvilent activists were 'greeted' by
about 15.000 robocops, snipers, secret agents, etc,
etc,... On the streets of Prague police patrols, above
them helicopters, above them US fighters, above them,
who even knows? Maybe we should call and ask Big
Brother. Czech corporate media launched a vicious
propaganda weeks before the Summit began, propaganda
of lies and manipulations, propaganda, which was based
on persuading people of Czech Republic and Prague,
that dangerous anarchist 'extremists' are coming into
their country and capital city. It was even said in
one case, these 'extremists' were training themselves
tacticts of guerrila warfare in secret training camps.
Leading czech newspapers were giving advices to
people, how they should act, if they would come across
with the protestors: "The best way to communicate with
left 'extremists' is passive tolerance." Now, how does
that look like, I don't even know. I guess they
probably don't either, but it doesn't matter to them
as long as they are getting payed for writing this
bullshit. And without a doubt, the winner was an
article tittled: "Is Osama bin Laden coming to
Prague?" I know, never say never, but come on, enough
is enough! Sistematic creating and intensifying of
tension from the corporate media was more than
successful - few weeks before the Summit only 30% of
residents of Prague believed there will be violent
demonstrations, a few days before the Summit the
number rised up to 80%. (If I remember correctly,
czech newspaper Respekt conducted public polls about
this.) In the end one can clearly recognise the goals
of intentional criminalisation of activists:
discreditation of activists and their demands,
justifying (in advance) the police repression and
brutality and finally, frightening the residents of
Prague, that might join the demonstrations.
Discreditation, justifying oppression and isolation.
We came into Prague to demand world peace, global
justice and international solidarity and were a priori
treated as 'extremists'. With Osama bin Laden as our
possible leader. Thank you, czech democracy.

I am an anarchist from Slovenia. I'm journalist for
Radio Student, which is the only independent medium in
my country and I also write for eco - anarchist web
magazine www.bluegreenearth.com. I came to Prague for
various reasons. I'll name two that are in a way most
important to me. I identy myself with the growing
movement for global justice and tend to support it in
every step I can. And the second: Slovenia was invited
in NATO at the Prague Summit, regardless the fact that
the majority of Slovenians oppose joining NATO. A
couple of us activists from my country went to Prague
to deliver the message of rebellion to the slovenian
political elite and to make it clear to them, that we
shall follow them wherever they will go and deliver
them this message again and again and again... NATO
elites may have already decided to treat us as their
servants, but we shall never accept NATO as our
master!

Branko, Jure, Tine and me came to Prague several days
before the demonstrations. We had no problems crossing
the austrian - czech border, possibly also because we
traveled by local train (Wien - Breclav). When border
police asked us, if we're going to Prague, we replied
that we're going to the 9. International Film
Festival, which took place in Krakow (Poland) from
16th to 22nd November. Always have a well prepared
excuse! Later we found out, that the czech police
strictned control at all borders about two days after
we got into the country. Nevertheless, organized
groups of foreign activists, as well as individual
activists, were still coming into Prague, even on the
day of the biggest demonstration. I heard, that about
300 people were turned back at the borders. In Prague
we met with a czech anarchist Sandra, who arranged
accommodation for us and who was also our trusted
guide through the city. Next two days we were moving
from apartment to apartment, then the problem of our
accommodation was finally solved, which came as a
great relief to us. Four foreign activists with big
rucksacks and sleeping bags wandering through the
city, where dominates the atmosphere of a time bomb,
are just asking for trouble. It is almost needless to
say, that we were at all times followed by the
undercover police. In fact, if you ask me, they're not
so undercover at all, one can easily spot them coming
a mile away. For example, they try to look like us
(read: left 'extremists'), so what they do is they go
to an army shop and buy the latest army gear clothes.
Sometimes they buy the whole suit and then one cop is
wearing the trousers and the other is wearing a
matching sweat shirt. It's quite ridiculous, really.
Cheap bastards. But we'll get back to this later.     

Immediately after we arrived into Prague we started
attending the meetings, where the organization of the
protests was being discussed down to its smallest
detail. One of the first tasks was to establish the
Convergence Center, where there would be enough room
for mass meetings and for making transparents and
other things 'we learned to do in secret training
camps in Afganistan',  as some czech corporate
journalists might conclude. Finding an apropriate
place for Convergence Center was a difficult task, but
discussing about the protests was even more
complicated, since there were some indications that
police will use its undercover provocators to set off
a riot. This is, of course, a well known tactic used
by the police all over the world. The situation was
even more fucked up due to the fact, that some czech
media were accusing the government, that it didn't
earmarked enough money for the renovation of recently
flooded regions, while it has spent a fortune on
security during the NATO Summit. Czech government
therefore needed at least one riot on the streets,
that would be quickly suppressed by the army of
robocops and then all the money wasting would be
quitely forgiven and forgotten.    

First demonstration occured on Sunday, 17th November,
on 13th anniversary of students' march, who were
demonstrating against the communist regime. This time
about 300 anarchists gathered on the march, which took
the same path as the one in 1989. The message was,
'After 13 years of capitalism we need a new
revolution!' Even though the march started and ended
completely peaceful, police repression over activists
increased sky high after that day. We were constantly
followed by undercover cops, checked, bothered and
raided almost every single day. For example: activists
from Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Croatia and we
from Slovenia connected with eachother and joined in
what has then become the Eastern European Anarchist
Bloc. One evening about 15 of us were sitting in a pub
discussing about our joint action on the N21 demo,
when suddenly an equal number of riot cops busted into
the place. The first words that came out my mouth
were: "Now we're definetly not paying!" (for the
drinks) The situation was again quite bizarre. Cops
were searching through our belongings screaming
something that could be understood as 'eureka!' every
time they found a black hat. There was no sense in
telling them it's the middle of November and it's cold
outside. Then the conversation would go something like
this: 
Cops: "Do you have guns?!" 
Us (very surprised):"Why?" 
Cops: "Because!!"       
They recorded us on their special antiriot camera and
dragged with them our friend from Poland, who has
forgotten his passaport at the house. He was released
after the intervention of the 'legal observance team'
(OPH). Undercover cops also tried to infiltrate
themselves at our meeting in the Convergence Center.
(The Convergance Center was established in an
abandoned factory storehouse, which our czech friends
rented for a couple of days. The police was 'guarding'
the place and whoever entered the Convergence Center
was checked and recorder on camera.) While about 40 of
us were having a meeting, three suspicious characters
in brand new army gear clothes walked into the
storehouse and quietly sat among us. We immediately
surrounded them with questions who are they and were
are they caming from. One of them had a baseball hat
and dreadlocks on the back of his had. When one
activist took the hat off his head we saw, that the
guy has fake dreadlocks, which were stiched or glued
somehow on his hat. Through great amount of laughter
we chased their sorry asses out of the place. Guys
looked like the three Stoogies, if you know what I
mean. The next day the authorities visited the owner
of the factory storehouse and he threw us out with a
poor excuse, that we're damaging the good name of his
company. So, I guess, that makes four Stoogies. At
least. But it wasn't just anarchist activists that
were under surveillance. Also the czech IMC
(Independent Media Center). Two CIA agents visited the
owner of an Internet Cafe, where IMC held its
'headquarters' and offered him around 1.700 USD to
provide for them log files of computers IMC
journalists were using. Unbelievable...

   
On Wednesday, 20th November, about 500 people gathered
in the center of Prague to express a symbolic protest
against the festive dinner party, which was organized
for the delegates of NATO member and candidate
countries. First, activists were handing out food to
people on the street under the slogan 'Food, not
bombs!' I think the menu was: Bush goulash with a hint
of revolution and Afghan tea. The purpose of the
action was to present two realities existing in the
world today: on one side you have the reach and the
powerful drinking their champagne, which probably
costs so much, you could use this money to feed the
entire starving population of some small poor country
and on the other side you have exactly that - the
hungry and the voiceless. After the 'Food, not bombs!'
action protestors armed with drums and other
instruments, kitchenware, whistles and a sound system
tried to make as much noise as possible in order to
disturb the dinner party of NATO delegates, who were
about 150 - 200 meters away from us. Whether we have
disturbed the dinner or not, I don't know, but we have
showed to the residents of Prague something very
special: no violence. Still, there were police
provocators at the scene and they tried to set off a
riot, but OPH and organizers intervened quickly and
efficiently and thus prevented any serious incidents. 
 
The next day things were much more tensed. A couple of
thousands of activists and common people gathered on
the 'Square of Peace' and headed for the main anti -
NATO march through the city of Prague. Who knows how
many undercover 'Stoogies' were amongst us. To prevent
any chance of a riot, march didn't head for the
Congress Center heavily guarded by 'the monies that
should go to the renovation of the flooded regions'.
All provocations were stopped even before they
started. Eastern European Anarchist Bloc composod of
previously mentioned activists from Czech Republic,
Poland, Lithuania, Croatia and Slovenia carried out a
successful joint action. We started our demo a few
hundred blocks away from the Square of Peace. Before
we started a march we were handing out a statement we
prepared to the people on the street. Among other
things statement said: "(...)The NATO expansion can be
viewed in many ways. By extending to the east, NATO
wants to put military pressure on Russia and
indirectly on China. Bulgaria and Romania, the new
members of North Atlantic Terrorist Organisation, will
enable NATO pact to further extend to the
geopoliticaly very important Kuakaz area. It is also
important to stress, that NATO is an institutionalized
army dealer, that wants to open more military markets
in Eastern Europe as it does around the globe. (...)
Let us not allow for our youth to go off in foreign
lands and fight on behalf of those, who already have
too much! (...) We oppose capitalist, religious and
military elites and we want a society based on peoples
cooperation, solidarity and self - organisation. We
want a new school system for our children, not
military training! We want better hospitals instead
military bases! We want a clean environment and so we
oppose to nuclear toxic waste! We want social
equality, peace not NATO wars of conquest! NATO can't
provide global security, it can be reached only by a
social change!" About 50 of us then took a march
through the strets of Prague shouting 'international
solidarity!' in different languages and dancing to the
rhytms of drums. We joined the main march shortly
after it took off from the Square of Peace. Even
though tension was in the air people were in many ways
enjoying themselves. Songs, music, street art,
dancing, posing with flags, joint shouting of slogans
(everything from from 'antiNATO!' to 'solidarity with
Argentinians!'), several children running around and
helping carrying the transparents etc, etc... The
march ended some hours later where it started and the
way it started ... with no violence. After the demo
Eastern European Anarchist Bloc celebrated the victory
and got seriously drunk in some pub. No comments on
that, cause I don't remember much. That night we were
truly free, free from any police repression, free from
media manipulations, free... We deserved it. 

On the following day, friday, about 150 anarchists
gathered again at the Square of Peace. This time we
went directly towards the bridge leading to the
infamous Congress Center. Our czech friends had with
them the model of a tank with a crooked barrel which
they laid in front of the police corridor and read a
statement they have prepared for the occasion. After
that we all joined in some sort of laughing ritual
pointing our fingers to the robocops, shouting: "Look
how many of you are here, and for what? For nothing!
Hahahaha!" 

In Prague 2002 Black Bloc acchived and celebrated a
great victory. In spite of all the criminalisation and
repression over our movement we managed to carry out
peaceful demonstrations and we for sure succeeded in
surprising all those, that foretelled us doom, blood
and tear gas. The corporate media, czech government
and some NATO officials stated afterwards, that it was
the police that prevented violent demonstrations of
Black Bloc. We can respond to them: "Burry your dead,
not the truth!" What happened in Prague was the
triumph of human reason over the militant logic of
repressive authorities. But in the end, look at it how
you will, the question of violent and nonviolent
protests soon won't be important anymore. The next
revolution for damn sure won't be a 'velvet' one! No
more dominions, no more dissidents! Freedom for all!

-Dedicated to anarchist activists that struggle all
around the globe. Keep on struggling! We are
everywhere!

          .......Erik Valencic, bluegreenearth.com


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