Show Me Your Stinking Badge

| June 15, 2001

Show Me Your Stinking Badge
M ore than a decade ago, under the guidance of poet, playwright, politician, and avatar Vaclav Havel, the Iron Curtain crumbled in Czechoslovakia in what was termed the "Velvet Revolution." Indeed, many who visited Prague in the late '80s and early '90s spoke of a nearly utopian city where the American "spirit of the '60s" was still alive. But when activists converged on the country last fall to protest an International Monetary Fund/World Bank conference, Czech authorities handled them with something much harsher than a velvet glove.

As Gwendolyn Albert reports in Freezerbox, police resorted to the tried and true tactics of torture, intimidation, and brutality that were perfected under the old fascist regime. Many activists never even made it past the border, as police swarmed train stations armed with dossiers of intelligence information obtained via the Internet and turned back anyone who'd been arrested (not charged or convicted) at Seattle's World Trade Organization demonstrations of 1999.

Amnesty International has substantiated many claims by The Czech Legal Observers Project (OPH) of police brutality, including beatings, and the denial of food, water, and access to toilets while detained protesters languished behind the closed doors of police stations. What's worse is the fact that most of these detainees were dragged in for completely non-violent protest.

Meanwhile, the neofascists who showed up to make their point with baseball bats (where someone gets a baseball bat in the Czech Republic, I don't know) were treated like family. According to witnesses, the neofascists who were detained were given free roam of the police station and even given their bats back when they were released. So much for the fruits of the Velvet Revolution.
--Al Paulson
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