Czech Republic: Prague Prepares for Anti-Globalization Protests
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank will hold their annual meeting in Prague next month, attracting nearly 18,000 officials, private bankers and journalists, as well as 20,000-40,000 protesters.
Various groups, including Rainbow Keepers, Bankwatch CEE and Friends of the Earth, will converge on Prague to demonstrate against the two institutions (Rick Jervis, Wall Street Journal, 24 Aug).
Riots broke out last November at the World Trade Organization's meeting in Seattle.
In preparation for possible violence and disruption of the meetings, the Czech Republic has assigned 11,000 police to the event, with 5,000 soldiers standing by if needed.
The Czech Republic has also solicited assistance from other agencies, including the US FBI and London's Metropolitan Police. Czech officials are also working with Interpol on identifying northern European protesters.
In case violence does break out, both the United States and the United Kingdom have warned citizens not to visit Prague at the end of September. The Czech Republic is warning its own population to avoid the areas of protest as well. Meanwhile, the Czech health ministry is preparing Prague's four hospitals for the worst, equipping the facilities with extra staff and drugs.
Potential targets of the protesters, such as fast-food restaurants, are ordering replacement panes of glass or are considering closing during the summit (Hopkins/Connolly, London Guardian, 24 Aug).
Groups have already arrived in Prague and are holding "protest training" classes. Many activists do not expect the protests to become violent, however. "All our training works toward nonviolent practices, be it toward the police or anyone else," said Chelsea Mozen, who works for the Czech group that is organizing the protests, Initiative Against Economic Globalization.
At the same time, Web sites such as www.destroyimf.org, have caused concern for the World Bank, IMF and Prague police, calling on protesters to "Turn Prague into Seattle."
To confound matters, several groups of neo-Nazi skinheads will be present at the September meeting, to protest the World Bank and IMF, as well as the anti-globalization activists.
Many IMF officials believe the opposition to the two world financial institutions is ill-informed. Some in the IMF, including Managing Director Horst Koehler, have met with several nongovernmental organizations to listen to their problems with the institution.
Meanwhile, Czech president Vaclav Havel has offered to talk with some of the protesters at Prague Castle, the ceremonial sector of government.
The two institutions' meetings will run from 19 - 28 September. Protest organizers say the largest demonstration will occur on 26 September (Jervis, Wall Street Journal).
- 194 World Financial Institutions