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(en) Czech, Prague, Anarchist against NATO summit November 21-22 - summary

From AP <apf@seznam.cz>
Date Mon, 25 Nov 2002 05:39:52 -0500 (EST)


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Following is the article about (not only) street protests 
against the recent NATO summit in Prague called "NATO summit 
in Prague: party of elite in the city of ghosts" (coppied from http://www.csaf.cz/english.php?file=64 .)

The article covers politics of antiNATO platform, an umbrella group
of anarchists against NATO, unusual amount of police repression
measures, another anarchist's activities as well as street actions on
the day of loudest protest on November 21.

NATO summit in Prague: Party for elite in the city of ghosts

The NATO summit in Prague was the event with the biggest
concentration of heads of states in Czech history. 45 heads of
states finally came to Prague to discuss above all the NATO
enlargement and the war against Iraq. Between those presented
on the summit was the president of France Chirac and also the
president of the USA Bush. 

Czech anarchist organisations hesitated what to do. Following the
debate about summit hopping vs. local activism, the
Czechoslovak Anarchist Federation (CSAF) first decided not to
call for international mobilisation, but rather to focus on "national"
and mainly informational campaign against the NATO itself. This
decision was accepted as the official position of the CSAF at its
general congress in autumn 2001.

Later, the situation change because of opinions of another
anarchist organisations, mainly Organisation of Revolutionary
Anarchists - Solidarity (ORAS), and a few individuals. To solve this
problem, Czech anarchists decided to call for the first antiNATO
international meeting, where we could discussed our opinions
with international comrades.

On this meeting it was decided to call for international
mobilisation. In Czechia,the antiNATO platform came into
existence. AntiNATO platform was an umbrella group which
consisted of the CSAF, ORAS, Feminist Alliance of March 8 and a
few individuals. Intensive mobilisation took place in Poland,
Slovenia and Germany. Organisation from these countries
participated on three international meetings which take place in
Prague; among others it was the Polish Anarchist Federation, AFA
Slovenia, Abolishing Borders from Below magazine collective, AFA
Croatia etc.

To summarise the activities of the CSAF taking place in the time
before the summit we could name around 40 lectures of CSAF
activists organised in different regions and cities in Czechia and
Slovakia, mini-tour of Tobias Pfluger, German anti-militarist, who
spoke on four lecture in two universities and two other places,
and several smaller street actions (street parties etc.) also in
different parts of Czechia and Slovakia.

Month before the summit, the ORAS left the antiNATO platform
because of lack of the people and energy. The preparations
intensified -the medical group was set up as well as the media
group, the border repression group and others. Most of this
working groups were composed of two or three people except
the medical one, which was larger. It is also important to note that
we had been in the total lack of money so we wouldn't have
been able to work without help from abroad. Thank you,
comrades. You know who you are...

The State repressions

With the intensifying of preparations, the state repression
intensified ten times more. The level of "preventive" repression was
really high. It was announced that there would be 12.000
policemen in the streets, 3.000 of them with anti-riot equipment
and 4.500 of soldiers with military vehicles. But this was nothing.
Ministry of Interiour received more than 650 millions of Czech
crowns (21,5 millions of EUR) for to ensure the safety of the summit.

And they knew very well what to do with this financial injection.
Already several months before the summit, the Ministry of Interior
started huge medial campaign against anarchists. This
campaign was becoming stronger and stronger. Special police
branch for fighting "extremist" paid a guy using hard drugs for a
long time to go to few journalists to tell them he is an anarchist
who had visited secret anarchist preparation camp. According
to him, in this camp anarchists learnt how to work with bombs
and trained themselves in working with real guns to shoot
policemen. Of course that big articles about this never existing
camps appeared on the first pages of newspapers. Also other
appeared about "the organisation which only way of working is
brutal violence - the Black block - is coming to Prague."

And it doesn't finish. The Minister of Interiour announced he had
the confirm information that at least 12.000 people were going to
Prague and about 20% of them were dangerous militants. Few
weeks before the summit this ministry published the Ten
Commanderments for Prague citizens. Between those there were
commands like "never talk to any protester" and "if you could, go
away from Prague." The police chief officially announced that he
had a confirmed news about "one of the most militant anarchist
organisation" Ya Basta is coming to Prague.

Few police trainings of "anti-demonstration actions" took place in
various military spaces and of course, from all of them there were
shots in TVs. In short, police and the Ministry of Interiour prepared
themselves and also nearly all of the Czech citizens for the street
war. And finally, a week and a half before the summit the Czech
parliament in "state of emergency" passed the special bill which
made possible not only American airfighters guarded the Czech
airspace without any responsibility for the damage they would
eventually use (remember Italian cable-car destroyed by
American airfighters because its pilot wanted to have a fun a few
years ago?), but also that 150 US soldiers could have operated in
the streets under the same conditions (i.e. without any
responsibility before the Czech jurisdiction). 

Last but not least, police also announced that they were going to
close the borders so no protesters from abroad would able to get
in Czechia. Shortly after the summit it was announced by the
Police chief that they had cooperated also with foreign secret
services in order to prevent "foreign radicals" from coming to
Prague in their countries and their effort was successful according
to him. We saw in Poland how it looked with secret agents
threatening parents of activists... "These preventive operations
were a big success," said the chief of "anti-extremist" department
of Czech Police.

The city of ghosts

According to official data, around 200.000 people followed the
official line and left Prague. In fact this number must be bigger.
Trams, usually so overcrowded that you have to wait one or two
before you manage to get in, were so empty during the summit
that you could have even sit. That gives us real picture.

The Minister of Interior admitted shortly after the summit that he
had needed the empty city. Of course he didn't say he made
the panic intentionally, but there is no better way how to make
the city empty anyway... He said that it is obvious that heads of
states can't wait in traffic jams and the empty city made it easy.

Thanks to the panic called by the Ministry of Interior a lot of shops
barricaded their shop-windows and doors with wooden boards
or at least cardboards. In the valley under the Congress centre,
where the summit took place, literally four of the five shops were
barricaded like that, included small shops like bakery,
ironmongery, stationery and my favourite one, undertaker's.

Even the Czech president Havel complained on his final press
conference after the summit that some of heads of the states
had complained the only thing they could have seen in Prague
were military armoured vehicles. Surprise, surprise... Maybe the
Ministry of Interiour should have organised rally of glorification of
the NATO, shouldn't it?

Politics of antiNATO platform

AntiNATO platform profiled themselves as the anarchist group. It
announced the spreading of alternative information and
informing of general population about our alternatives as the
main goal of the campaign. It was also announced that
antiNATO platform didn't want to disrupt the summit neither to
march to the Congress Centre.

All of this goals were decided and agreed also on the
international meeting which took place in Prague. The antiNATO
platform had a spokesperson who stand out only with a rubber
mask of Vaclav Klaus, the leader of the biggest right-wing party in
Czechia and the person mainly responsible for Czechia
becoming the NATO member, and under the name of George
W. Bush translated into Czech. This should have first of all
prevented personalisation of the movement but also made the
spokesperson to feel more safe and given the corporative media
show they wanted, but according to our rules.

AntiNATO platform also stressed that people were ready to
defend themselves against attacks of police as well as it was not
responsible for any action of another groups who may have
decided to protest in way they like. When asked if our protest
could turn in violence the spokesperson always answered it is the
NATO who commit real violence and that such a question means
a certain level of cynicalism.

AntiNATO in the streets

The description of all demonstrations is not point of this article, so
first only the short summary. First demonstration took place on
November 17, the anniversary of fall of bolsevik regime in Czechia
in 1989. The main motto of this action was "After 13 years of
capitalism we need a new revolution." This demo was attended
by 300-400 people and was thought mainly as a possibility for
showing the resistance for people from other parts of Czechia
because it was Sunday.

Second demonstration took place on November 20, the day
before the summit. It should have been the noisy demonstration
before the Obecni dum, the palace where luxury dinner for the
summit delegates took place. About 500-600 people came to this
creative action. People drummed, whistled and shouted slogans
and left the place after few hours without any arrests. 

One of the interesting thing is that on this demo (as well as on the
first one) an "Anarchist's block of solidarity with Argentina" was
formed with samba-band, banner saying "Solidarity with
Argentines!" and about 40 people banging pans and pots in
solidarity with an uprising with anti-capitalist nature in Argentina.

And the most important action and the day of our loudest
protest, international day of action November 21. The meeting
point was on Namesti Miru square at 14:00. At 12:30, a group of
one hundred of Czech anarchists met at the place and went to
the march in direction to the Congress Centre. Not because they
really wanted to go to the Congress centre. Police announced
many weeks ago that huge surrounding area will be closed and
nobody without permission wouldn't be able to get in. 

AntiNATO platform booked the march across the Nuselsky bridge
which lead directly to the Congress centre several months ago so
the march was fully legal. Anarchist wanted to show that the law
is valid only sometimes and for someone... And it happened.
Police blocked one hundred (!!) of peaceful activists with two
armed vehicles and several lines of police with anti-riot
equipment. So anarchists turned and went back to the Namesti
Miru.

Around 2 000 people gathered there meanwhile. After 15:00 the
real march started, but before that a group of bolsheviks with
their flags had to be kicked off the spot. Several bolsheviks
reacted aggressively on demand of one anarchist and attacked
her. She was bitten by angry bolshevik, but a bit later they left the
place.

In one street, the main march with the Black block in first line was
joined by around a few hundreds strong march of Eastern
Europe anarchists, who marched from another place. At this
moment, the march had 2 500-3 000 people. The march went to
the working class area of Nusle in the valley under the Congress
Centre and then back to the Namesti Miru. The march lasted for
three and a half hour, but the mood was quite good.

People knew well that police was waiting for the even minor
incident which would have given them possibility to attacked the
march. But this incident didn't happened. As it was announced,
the march didn't tried to get close to the Congress Centre and
went on the way organisators had booked. So later police
decided to help themselves with a few provocation, but people
didn't answer. 

First the police car with driver was mysteriously forgotten before
the march and get into it. The Black block, the worst of the evil
and public enemy number one surrounded this car and wait
until it went away (without any damage!) in order to prevent
action of police provocateurs. Later, the bus for delegates stood
in the way of the march, but people went around and nobody
attacked it. No incidents happened.

Conclusions

The main demonstration against NATO is a big success for
anarchists who work on preparations. One of the main point is
that anarchist's principles of self-management and solidarity
proofed themselves to be working once again. People who came
to the demo knew what to do and were careful to ensure that
the action would looked like they wanted and not like the police
wanted. Police wanted to fight, preparing themselves for that for
more than half a year. Anarchists wanted to show the resistance
and informed people about our alternatives - and it happened.

Another important point is that the demo was so well attended. In
the climate of war created by the Ministry of Interior it demanded
a big personal courage to go to the streets - and hundreds and
thousands of Czech people did it. Although there were a few
hundreds of people from abroad (mainly from Slovenia and
Poland), majority of demonstrators were Czech people. To be
open, we hadn't waited so big number of Czech people coming.

Also important is that the international solidarity, especially in
Eastern Europe region, was clearly manifested. Not only by
common march and then block of Eastern Europe anarchists,
but also by the "border points" for people stopped on the border
in Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia. This border points
provided informations about situation on border, sleeping places,
and in some of them solidarity street actions happened.

Somebody could think that the demonstration could be more
militant, but we believe that this is our success and move from the
strategy of summit confrontation to local activism.

PH, International secretary of the Czechoslovak Anarchist
Federation and editor of the A-kontra magazine


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