Paris, Thursday, September 21, 2000 11,000 Police Mobilized for Prague Talks
By Peter S. Green International Herald Tribune
PRAGUE - Czech police, determined to prevent protesters from disrupting the meetings here of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, have mobilized 11,000 armed officers, equipped with pistols, truncheons, attack dogs, tear gas, horses, water cannons and armored vehicles. Authorities estimate that as many as 20,000 demonstrators who oppose economic globalization may show up from across Europe and beyond.
''If the Seattle scenario occurs, then the police are ready to use all means to prevent this,'' said Colonel Miroslav Platil, deputy chief of police for Prague.
In Seattle last November and December, protests turned into riots as demonstrators overwhelmed a small and unprepared police force and rampaged through the city during a meeting of the World Trade Organization.
They broke shop windows, overturned cars and looted some stores.
Martin Shaw, a British anarchist and a spokesman for Inpeg, a Czech-based umbrella group organizing the protest, said the goal this time was to blockade the delegates once they had entered the conference center.
''Then we can command them to dissolve the IMF and the World Bank,'' he said.
The main protests are expected to begin Saturday.
All public schools in Prague will be closed next week, and district town halls have offered elderly residents subsidized stays in a summer colony outside town.
McDonald's restaurants, targeted by protesters in Seattle and elsewhere as a symbol of globalization, have ordered spare windows.
Other multinational chains are considering boarding up their windows until the meeting is over. But the protest movement has relatively little support among a population still coming to grips with the transition from communism to capitalism.
For many Czechs, McDonald's means a cheap meal, a job and a glimpse of a brighter future.