Irish Eyes In Prague: The Calm Before The Storm
Scoop’s Irish correspondent Greg Meylan has travelled to Prague to provide coverage for Scoop of the S26 protest actions. The following is his first report.
There are at least five police and two security guards outside every McDonalds in Prague, further down the street you pass two mini vans full of riot police sitting rigid in their armour, cans of pepper spray lying in their laps. Somewhere else a truckload of soldiers arrive and unload.
Beyond this though as you walk through the beautiful city centre there is no sign of anything other than tourism and capitalism as normal.
The local press however reports a tension in the city. Hardly surprising given that the Czech Government has spent the last three months telling the city’s citizens that a mad destructive horde was about to descend upon it.
This is what most of the protesters think too, only they are describing the World Bank and the IMF whose policies, in the words of the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, have killed more people than the second world war.
Take the underground five stops out of town, and the scene changes from tourism to activism. At the convergence centre for the S26 demonstration a few thousand people speaking every European language are cooking food, talking, organising details, making banners - preparing to get battered by police, to avoid getting battered - getting ready to try and close down the 55th IMF-World Bank meeting.
There have been many stories of people being stopped at the Czech border as the security forces use every miniscule law in the book to keep people out.
It seems unlikely that there will be the 50,000 or even 30,000 protesters the media has been predicting here. But those who are here - invariably young - are determined, educated and part of something no one quite understands yet.
The atmosphere around the centre is extraordinary. It is exciting, scary, well organised, diverse.
Inside in a large disused factory it is all busyness and dust. In the middle of the hall the pink group is practising its manoeuvres. Speakers take turns to instruct the crowd on what signals they will be using, where to send the wounded and how to communicate with the rest of the demonstration.
Tomorrow they won’t be practising but neither will the riot police, who knows what the day will bring.