Global Policy Forum

Anti-IMF Protestors Plot Czech "Seattle II"

August 6, 2000

The Czech capital Prague is currently basking in the summer heat. Tourists throng along the baroque Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square and up on the Castle hill overlooking the spectacularly beautiful city. Everything is as it should be. But all that could change dramatically next month.

For Prague is bracing for what anti-globalization protestors are warning will be "Seattle II," a mass demonstration against the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank from September 21-29. And, while all is calm on the streets, the plotting is well underway -- on the web.

"The protest in Seattle on November 30 1999 rocked capitalism to its foundations," say the authors of destroyimf , one of a handful of websites coordinating the protest plans. "We don't just want to disrupt their summits ... We want an end to debt, poverty and capitalist exploitation. "That's why we're going to Prague to make the IMF summit in September 2000 into Seattle II," it warns.

Czech authorities say they are taking all necessary measures to prepare for the meeting, being held in Europe for the first time, which will gather up to 20,000 ministers, bank chiefs and top officials from dozens of countries. Some 11,000 police equipped with riot gear are to be deployed in September to control an estimated 20,000 protestors expected to descend on the Bohemian capital from Europe and around the world.

IMF director general Horst Koehler visited Prague last week to discuss preparations for the meetings, and pledged total openness with the protestors, saying delegates will even attend some meetings organized by NGOs. Czech President Havel notably warned that "too much attention is being given to security arrangements, as if we were getting ready for some sort of civil war."

Protestors aren't so sure. And they are using the power of the internet to coordinate travel, accommodation and protest location arrangements. "Turn Prague into Seattle!" says Workers' Power , describing the September meeting as "aiming to plot the next stage of restoring capitalism in Eastern Europe." The IMF and the World Bank "are unreformable institutions which harm world society and the environment and must be dismantled," said Alice Dvorska, spokesman for the Initiative Against Economomic Globalization (INPEG)

INPEG ( is notably organizing a "counter-summit" from September 22-24. Britons, Poles and Dutch are expected to be prominent among foreigners swelling the protest ranks. The main street protests will be September 24 and 26, the second one likely to be more radical. The planned Prague protests could be the biggest since last year's Seattle anti-WTO demonstrations which turned violent and which appear to have set a tone for regular counter-culture events at such meetings.

This year protests have marred proceedings at the World Economic Forum (WEF)'s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland in February, the IMF/World Bank spring meeting in Washington in April, and most recently last month's G8 summit in Okinawa.

Last week the first real, if symbolic, protest was held in the Old Town Square in the heart of the Czech capital. A football match pitted three "global" players -- dressed up as McDonalds, Shell and Phillip Morris -- against a worker, a farmer and a woman. With the help of an IMF/World Bank referee , the three global giants easily won. Tourists were the main beneficiaries of the protest. But for global protestors, the web is clearly the place to keep up to date.

The destroyimf website, which includes advice on travel and accommodation as well as constantly updated information on protest locations, says the Czech authorities are not alone. "The IMF summit in Prague will be protected by a Czech police operation run by the FBI," it says. "The challenge to the workers' movement is to shutdown that summit with the biggest international demo Europe has ever seen."

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