Oct 5th 2000 – So I got deported from the Czech Republic…

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    This is part of a series of blog posts that were originally emails i sent to friends a decade ago, which were just forwarded back to me. This is my account of being arrested during the IMF/World Bank protests in Prague on Tuesday September 26th in Prague 2000. For those of you who don’t know, I was in Prague to work on the Prague IndyMedia Center and to attended protests against the IMF and World Bank Meetings. I was arrested and held for 3 days then was ‘deported’ to Germany. Please feel free to forward this to anybody who you think might be interested. I don’t have a lot of people’s email addresses on hand, this is just going to people’s addresses I could remember. On Tuesday morning I had been working on the indymedia.org website, for a couple of hours before I decided to head out and see the protests sometime early in the afternoon. By this time the rally was over and the marches were fully underway. I wandered around for a couple of hours looking at and joining a couple of the different sections of the protests. At the blue march, mostly anarchists it seemed, I saw a huge battle between the cops and protesters. Lots of rocks were thrown mostly be the protesters, but also the cops were throwing rocks back. There were huge water cannons and a fair amount of tear gas.. Between the hail of rocks and the sounds of tear gas canisters exploding it looked a lot like a war zone. I hung around for about half an hour, just watching the mealy. I wandered down the hill, hooked up with some other indymedia folks and gave them my gas mask, so they could get closer and take photos. I then wandered rather uneventfully around the perimeter congress center which was quite a ways away from the actual center. After making a full circle I found that we could get right up to the center near the metro stop. A lot of people, several hundred with lots of Italians, went up and sat around right near the center. There was a trumpeter who played for a while before the riot cops came down and pushed us back. Nothing seemed to be happening at the metro stop, so I went back to where the blue march had been fighting with the cops a couple of hours earlier. There were large piles of rocks on the sides of the road, and some people going around cleaning up, but it was mostly deserted. S., another indymedia person, was sitting on the grass up the hill a little ways from where the fight was. We talked a little while. It looked like the cops were going to start bringing delegates through the road. Most of the other entrances were still blocked by blockades and we were hoping to keep the delegates in the convention center long enough so they’d have to cancel their evening social events. S. said she was going to lay down in the street to block traffic and asked if I wanted to join her. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ve sat down to block traffic before, during the spring IMF/World Bank meetings in DC, and all they did was drag us off to the side walk and drive the cars through. I didn’t think about it that much, but I suppose that’s what I thought they’d do here also. What happened was quite different. First I sat down, then when the cars came up I laid down on my back across the street. Between S. we probably had two thirds of the street blocked. First a motorcycle drove up and revved it’s engine with the front tire resting on my stomach. For a brief moment I wondered what I should do if he tried to run over me, but then he pulled back and I went limp when I was grabbed by a number of cops. As far as I remember they didn’t say anything to me. S. who knows a little Czech said they told her “Come on, get out of the way.” They first dragged us of the side of the road and let the cars go by. Then the picked us up, one cop holding each limb. The carried me back behind the police barricades. There they started kicking me and hitting me. I don’t really remember how many times, but there were at least a couple of times they tried to kick me in the balls. They missed, but then they started trying pain compliance holds. Twisting my arms around, grabbing me by the neck, and a couple other things. They did some of the holds correctly and they hurt, others they didn’t seem to know how to do. It didn’t last very long, they hand cuffed me with plastic cuffs and put us both in the police van. S. had her shirt torn open and I had my glasses partially knocked off. Once we were in the police van they searched through my bag and found a rock which I had picked up earlier as a souvenir. I hadn’t thrown any rocks, or really participated in the protest that much aside from marching around, and I tried to tell the cops that the rock was a souvenir. I couldn’t think of anything better to say. Needless to say, they flipped. They yelled, threatened to throw the rock at me, slammed my head in to the back of the van 3 or 4 times. I didn’t break anything or start bleeding but as I was cowering against the wall I noticed it was splattered with dried blood. I certainly wasn’t the first person who’d been hit against the wall nor did I get the worst treatment by any means. We sat in the van for about an hour. After a while the cops went through S.’s bag and found a sweater that they let her put on. Once the re-cuffed her, they did it even tighter. I still have scabs from the cuffs, and one of S.’s hands went numb. After a while we were driven to a police station, KP in praha 4. At the police station I was put up against the wall, patted down, then taken in to the police station. After being pushed around and in to the holding cell they took me out and strip searched me. It’s funny, but I actually minded being strip searched less than the rough man handling that they did when they ‘patted’ me down. Even though I was in an open room with lots of cops walking by. After the strip search, i was moved back in to the crowded holding cell. It was a pretty small cell considering there were 15 of us. 6 Czech 2 German 1 Polish 1 Solvenian 1 Dutch 1 Spaniard 2 Americans (including myself) 1 Brit The Czech were taken out of the cell after an hour or two. The Germans had a number of cuts/bruises on their faces and heads. The Polish had a quarter inch open wound on the back of his head that was still slowly bleeding at 11pm, it looked like it needed stitches to me. The Solevian had a broken nose and hand, as well as a mangled index finger. R., the other American had a large bandage on his head. He had been hit by a rock thrown by the police and it was also still open and bleeding when we re-fit his bandaged in the middle of the night. He was arrested while the street medics were bandaging him up. A., the Solevian was probably only 16 years old. He didn’t even get anything for his bleeding finger for many hours, and even then it was just some medical tape. It was not until Thursday, over 48 hours after he was arrested before he was taken to the hospital where he got a real bandages and xrays which confirmed his broken hand and nose. He had been arrested when taking photos during the fight between the blue (anarchist/autonomist) march. The Polish activist who had the wound in his head told us that the police were accusing him of assaulting an officer. I’ve since heard stories of other people being accused of this by the cops but then let out with out charges. He was taken out of our cell in hand cuffs in the middle of the night. R., the other American in my cell had huge bandage on his head. He had been hit in the head by a rock thrown by the cops. Mostly the cops shot the tear gas canisters, used their huge water cannon, and hit people with their clubs, but they also throw some rocks back at the crowd. R. had fallen over after being hit and was dragged to the side of the road where the medics helped him. They told him that he’d be safe while they were helping him but the cops came up and dragged him away anyway. He didn’t have his passport on him, a requirement by Czech law, so I lost track of him after I left the foreigners police station on Wednesday evening. I have not heard anything of what happened to him since then. The Dutch fellow, D. and if I remember correctly both the Spaniard from Madrid and the Brit had been arrested when they made a ‘puppy pile’ to protect a woman who was being beaten. Basically they just lay on top of her so they cops would hit them instead. They were pulled behind police lines, but from what they knew the woman who was being beaten wasn’t arrested. D. was very loud in demanding our rights. He repeated this over and over: “The Czech Republic is governed by law. As police it is your responsibility to uphold that law. Under Czech law we have the right to a Lawyer. We have a right to food, we have a right to be charged, we have a right to a phone call, we have a right to a doctor.” Once in a while we included “we have a right not to listen to bad country music” because they kept playing this bad Czech versions of bad American country music. Needless to say, the we got none of those rights. Under Czech law, prisoners have the right to food every 6 hours, but I didn’t get any food until I was at the Bolkova detention center about 30 hours after I was arrested. At one point D. convinced one of the cops to let him have a phone call to the lawyers. He was taken out of the cell and over to the phone when one of the higher ups noticed. There was a brief argument between the cops and D. was sent back to the cell sans phone call. When we were at the first local police station, then at the foreigners police station they were constantly telling us contradictory information. I can’t remember how many times I was told we’d be released in only a few minutes or hours. Every time we asked for a phone call they’d say, 20 minutes, or wait until you get to the next place. We never did get a phone call. Or see a lawyer, or as far as I can tell even get charged with anything. But every time we demanded something they told us some lie. It made believing anything we heard very hard. Sometime in the middle of the night one of the cops opened a door and pepper-sprayed the Brit right in the face. He’d been making noise, demanding rights we weren’t being granted, and they had threatened us with pepper-spray a while before. The spraying was totally unexpected, he just walked by and sprayed him at close range. Afterwards he sounded like he was bragging to the other cops. We had a little water which we tried to use to wash out our friend’s eyes, but he was laying on the floor in pain for a while. From the men’s cell we could see across in to part of the women’s cell. There were probably about 6 women held at the KP police station. They were much more vocal and demanding about their rights. One woman, C. was struggling and trying to block her self from being put back in her cell after they took her out for something, either taking her statement or for the toilet. It took a number of cops to shove her back in to the cell. During the struggle C. tried to grab the cop’s badge to get his #. Only some of the cops ever wore badge #’s. The badge had a sharpened edge and she got a cut across the inside of her fingers. After they got her back in to her cell we saw them bringing wood through to barricade the door to the cell shut. We then saw the women write “Fuck You” in blood on the glass between their cell and the police office area. Apparently they also tried to use the blood to write down the police badge #’s they could see. In the morning when we were taken to the foreigners police, chairs was not on the bus. Since I got out I found out that she was taken to the hospital. She got stitches for her hand. While at the hospital the cops where interrogating her. OPH, the legal team, got a very short phone call from her saying she was ok, but when they called back they got one of the doctor’s mobile’s. One person was arrested just trying to see her in the hospital. At some point she jumped out of a window and broke her leg in multiple places and her hip. The last I heard she’d been transferred to an Austrian hospital. When we were transferred to the foreigners police Wednesday morning several of the women were hurt when they were shoved in to the bus door when being put on the bus. It was pretty typical to have the cops shove people in to doors or stairs. They had take our shoelaces so it was particularly difficult walk when being pushed around. At the foreigners police station we were pushed around from once cell to another. I was strip searched again, had my finger prints taken on a brand new fingerprinting computer, and we spent a lot of time up against the walls spread eagle. For me this was actually the hardest part. Standing there facing in to the walls. Every time we tried to look or talk we were scolded or pushed back in line. Combined with the exhaustion of not getting hardly any sleep all I wanted to do was sit down, instead of being pushed around and asked to sign random documents in Czech. I’m sure that part of the keeping us tired and harried was to keep us from asking to many questions or demanding our rights. And in some ways it worked. By Wednesday afternoon all I was thinking about was getting by and making it through the next couple of minutes. One of the few times when there was a translator I asked her what would happen to us. She asked the police something and then told us that if were Americans we’d be deported to New York City after being held for a week. We’d also told that we’d just be released in a few minutes, so I wasn’t sure what to believe. I certainly didn’t want to be sent back to new york, as I already have a ticket back to the US and didn’t want to pay for another or leave Europe so quickly. The other Americans and Canadians i talked to in jail felt the same way. Later we found out that only people who had their embassies actively involved in their getting released got sent back to their country. The US Embassy didn’t do anything for Americans arrested, and even went so far as hanging up on people who called them to ask about us. Eventually they loaded us up on a bus and drove us out of Prague. We were driven in to the country side. For a long time we thought we might be taken to the German border as the highway signs listed Dresden in the direct we were going. After a while we turned off the main road and down a small one lane road to a large immigration detention center, Bolkova. At Bolkova we were unloaded from the bus, lined up, given a 2 minute shower, prison garb, and a quick check up by a nurse who didn’t speak english. I was separated from the people who’d been in my cell at the first jail and placed with a Basque, Norwegian, and French Canadian. Finally getting to Bolkova was a relief, it was the first place we were given some space from the guards where we could talk. Being in prison with activists from all over world was truly amazing. Nothing matches the experience when we started to yell between cells our names and countries. Once cell to the next we called out our home countries. In Bolkova there were activists from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, England, Holland, Germany, Poland, Solovkia, Hungary, France, Basque Country, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Canada, and the US. I heard from other people that there were also activists from Greece, Columbia, Mexico, and other places. The international nature of this movement for global economic justice is truly inspiring. Over the next two days we went on hunger strike, talked about where and how we were arrested, where we were from, our politics and background. They put us in cells and wouldn’t let us talk directly to activists outside our cell, but it didn’t work to reduce solidarity. We managed to yell out the window to people in other cells and talk to our cell mates. That communication and solidarity is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my activism. From around the world thousands of people had traveled to Prague and hundreds of us had been arrested putting our bodies on the line in mass protest against a global economic system which places profits as the pinocle of human achievement. We were not only fighting against the policies of the IMF and World Bank, but for a more inclusive, just, and participatory economic, social, and political order. Whether it was X., the Basque trade unionist who talked about applying the ideas of the Zapitistias in Mexico to his organizing, Ostin from Norway who’d quit the military and becoming a squater/housing rights activist, or E. from Qubec who was hitch hiking across Europe joining protests where he found them. Each of us had come together in Prague because we think that the current economic, political and social order isn’t accidental or inevitable. Talking together the idea that it is all one struggle was not just some tired idealistic slogan, but something I could actually feel. In the cell we tried to be as creative as possible in figuring out what to do. We asked for paper and pencil, one of the rights they told us about but didn’t give. They gave us a whole sheet of rights and responsibilities. As far as I know the only part of that document they paid attention to was their right to use coercive force against us when they pleased. All the rights that are supposed to be part of Czech law are just a joke. They ignore them completely, and threaten to beat us when we demand our rights under their law. After we had been refused the right to going outside for an hour a day, to paper, to reading material, to lawyers, and the like we made our selves a deck of playing cards and a backgammon game. It was a little surreal, playing solitaire and looking out the windows at the trees felt a little like summer vacation. All you had to do was ignore the prison clothing, bars on the windows, and the locked cell bars prevented us from going anywhere. Thursday evening X. was taken out of his cell to meet a representative from his embassy. That’s when we found out the other side of the hall was on hunger strike. The Spanish embassy was the first to actually get in touch with people at Bolkova. We didn’t know it at the time, but Spanish activists in Barcelona had taken over the Czech Embassy. Later in the night X. was woken up and taken away. All the Spanish in were deported late Thursday night. When X. was taken out of the room we found out that the other side of the hall had gone on hunger strike. With that information we started to talk about going on hunger strike in our cell. We told the folks in the next cell that we were talking about going on hunger strike. They were considering the same thing. We all felt that it would be the right thing to do to join our fellow activists in hunger strike. X. is diabetic so he made the decision to keep taking food. When we asked the other cells and it seemed like about 75% of the people on our side of the hall were going to go on hunger strike. With the Spanish being deported Thursday night, we had the first sign about how long we’d be held. We had been told that it would be between 3 days and a week. Friday afternoon we started hearing that more embassies had sent representative to see their citizens. Around mid afternoon in and the other Norwegian packed up their stuff and where taken away. E. and I were let go in the last batch of people. When people called the US embassy asking about Americans arrested at the protests they were told that US would leave the case up to the Czech police and not intervene on our behalf. I have to admit, i didn’t expect much of my government, but given the reputation of coming to the aid of us citizens arrested illegally in foreign countries, i thought they might do something. What they did do was hang up on people to called to ask for help. Friday evening we were finally take from our cells, marched around the prison halls for a while, and given our stuff back. After some more inane bureaucratic paperwork which we refused to sign, we were bussed to the train station in Plzen. We were met by some people from INPEG, the protest group, and gave the first of many statements. That’s where I first heard that C. had broken her leg and hip in the hospital, and other news from outside the jail. It wasn’t until we got back to Prague at 5am that we found out that the last day of the meetings had been canceled. We had succeeded in shutting down the meetings and making our voices heard. The undemocratic institutions that dictate our global economy will have to go even further appease criticism or they will be dismantled completely.

    Excerpt from:
    Oct 5th 2000 – So I got deported from the Czech Republic…

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