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(en) Freedom 6323 Nov 30 2002 - Protests mark summit in Czech Republic

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 11 Dec 2002 02:50:43 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

'The world is not a military training ground' said one of the
banners, as anarchists provided a steady accompaniment
to the first NATO summit since September 11th.
Numerous marches and demonstrations lined the streets
of Prague in the days leading up to and including the
summit, which was held in the Czech capital on 21st and
22nd November. All of them passed off without incident,
despite a hysterical propaganda campaign in the
mainstream media. This centred on the threat allegedly
posed by a 'hardcore' of activists, said to be intent on
causing violence. Corporate journalists, hungry for
marketable copy, even attended preparatory meetings in
the guise of media activists, quizzing organisers about
where and when the violence was scheduled to begin.
Rather predictably, Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross
was quick to invoke the catch-all terrorist threat, saying
that after September 11th there could be no tolerance of
street violence. Actually, there was little tolerance of
anything at all. Border controls were tightened, and about
two hundred people were refused entry to the country
entirely. Some had their passports stamped to stop them
from returning before 1st December. Areas of the capital
were closed to cars and pedestrians, while five hundred
security cameras were used to monitor the streets and
three thousand riot uniforms were issued to police.
The use of water cannon, tear gas and armoured vehicles
was sanctioned wherever cops deemed them necessary.
Riot cops raided a meeting of international activists which
was being held in a bar. On marches, ID cards and
passports were repeatedly inspected and the usual
photographs were taken. Undercover police lurked in every
nook and cranny, while activists from internet news
service Indymedia were allegedly trailed by CIA spooks.
One demonstrator said, "you have to keep reminding
yourself there's nothing illegal about reporting the truth,
but in this town the concept of freedom of expression
seems quite alien at the moment."
In all, the summit went ahead as scripted. The declaration
which was issued as the conference drew to a close
suggested that delegates were either oblivious or
indifferent to events taking place in the streets outside,
though they did take the opportunity to claim they were
solely concerned with the 'common goal of a Europe
whole and free'.
They categorically condemned terrorism 'in all its forms
and manifestations' and said they were determined to
prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction through
'disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation'. At the
same time, they endorsed the implementation of a 'NATO
Biological and Chemical Defence Stockpile'. The decision
was also taken to create a 21,000-strong NATO Response
Force, which would intervene wherever in the world
NATO could provide 'added value'. In the not-so-free
market of ideas, it seems, peace too is a commodity.
Anton Pawluk

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