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Prague S26: harrowing report from released prisoner
from via Biotic Baking Brigade firstname.lastname@example.org 3nd Oct 2000
I'm am writing you at 6 :15 am in the morning of september 30, 2000, after yet another hectic day/night, after 4 days with very little sleep, from home in Belgium. Kaylene is in Germany and will arrive here later this morning by train.
That Prague S26 turned a bit ugly may not be news to you anymore. I have to say I did not see any of the street fights, riots, stone throwing, fires, gas, bullets or tear gassing... as I was arrested brutaly S26 around 5pm and simply writing this sentence is difficult as it brings tears to my eyes from the horrible memories of being beaten to pieces, screamed at, thrown to the ground and kicked over and over, screamed at, and dragged in a pain compliance arm hold to the jail bus while they beat the sides of my knees with batons, and I could not even stand on my left leg anymore.
Both sides were purple, and screaming from pain only brought more brutality with rough pushes and more horrible screaming in complete not decodable Czech language.
I will write up a detailed account of what happened, but I'll just stick to the basics here, or at least I'll try, maybe I'll get on a roll...
Megan, Kaylene and I stayed in the peaceful area of the protest all day, marched and took photos. The police blockades looked impressive with tanks, watercanons and tons of cops.
We heard about heavy fighting with molotiv cocktails and everything and stayed away from that ; When we heard the fighting was over we went to check it out, hoping to find some other peaceful blockades further down perhaps. We came upon a street Na Slupi which looked like all hell had broken loose there just less than an hour before, with stones everywhere, sidewalks broken up, a smashed car, smoldering trash, a stench of lingering gas, and streets wet from the watercanon.
It was calm as the fight had moved away out the area, I guess. Some other folks were calmly walking around, as we did. Police was around, but seemed calm and in control of the situation as the danger was gone. Or so I thought...
I got a little closer to take photos of the debris with cops in the background and within seconds it went so fast I froze and didn't even think of running away all I could bring out was «I"m only taking a photo --these cops, about 5 or more grabbed me and beat me down by hardly hitting the side right under the knee very hard, immobilizing me. That's how it all started, but it was only the beginning of what was so outrageous it seemed unreal.
To cut it short, (-police screaming czech obscenities (according to a Czech onboard who said he could not believe what he was hearing) and pushing and violently grabbing being part of the every fifteen minutes reality-) we were bussed to the police station in 2 rounds, as our first bus didn't make it because it got ambushed and the front window thrown in and blockaded.
As the sirens sounded, and the stones were destroying the exposed cop part of the bus, the bus drove backwards and escaped (unfortunately, because for a split second it looked like liberation was possible...) ; I cannot describe the intensity of this. Seattle was a walk in the park. We were transferred to another bus.
Police station 'booking - consisted of locking us up in a room 2 by 3 meters (that's about 6 by 9 feet) with twelve people. Sometimes they'd close the door and it was completely dark, other times they slammed it creating a huge scary loud noise.
We stayed in there for at least 5 hours, I think, only to be taken out one at a time for writing your name, getting your head slammed down to the table, fingerprinted, photo taken, etc... It started to feel like routine procedures (pushing, kicking, screaming, ...).
Not exactly a pleasant strip search either when you get certain body parts squeezed... Then we could give our statement, where I tried to get as much accounts of police brutality in, but much was left out and my words were consistently watered down to make it appear that I might still have been at the fight. (for instance I said I was arrested at 5 or after ; they wrote « between 4 :30 and 5..., and so on).
Not signing didn't feel like an option, as they had forced (at that time the mere threat of more beating was very intimidating) us to sign a promise to pay 1000 Ck (about30 USD) for a infraction traffic violation of being in a zone declared off limits ; this with the promise we would get out that night ; Yeah right .... Not so ;
We were bussed to the 'foreign police' station, where our belongings got inventorized, and we were cramped in a room the same size of 2 by 3 meters, but this time with 24 people ( ! ! !)... for the rest of the night until the sun had been up for some time outside.
It seemed like the extremely rough treatment was over, and they started to behave nicer (my request to pee was okayed after 6 hours, huray) ; We were told that we were going to a detention center for processing : deportation if found guilty, release if found innocent ; and if innocent we should be out as fast as the paperwork moves, another day, maybe two. Then they took us there, a prison-like complex in the middle of the woods 100 kilometers from Prague...
Over 24 hours had passed until we received any water and food.
Anyways, I was in a spacious room (4 by 8 meters, plus a corner with stinking toilet and sink) , with a view behind the bars of the woods, and a fenced of guarded walking yard where illegal immigrants from asia and other areas got their daily walk before deportation.
We were visited by a ladybug (the window opened, and opened quite wide since previous inhabitants had broken part of the framing), and saw two cats walk outside, the highlights of that day... ; I was taken to the hospital for checkup on my injured left leg, but found okay.
The pain had subsided and the purple only remained in a spot on my right leg (which was beaten had enough to have been bleeding a little) ; I need to say many people were roughed up far worse, and not because they actually participated in the cop stoning/firebombing, many were arrested in similar situations, or as they tried to escape the fight, take a photo or in the peaceful civil disobedience which got broken up very violently as well.
Anyways, at the hospital the doctor, a very nice and sympathetic man who translated what the police was telling him, seemed very disturbed, as the nurse was standing by almost with tears in her eyes, as I and a Swedish women who had injured her ankle badly and was in the ambulance with me, ... as we were told we were actually not in a detention center, but in a concentration camp, and the earliest release would be in one month, IF we behaved nicely, otherwise we'd be there till February (180 days being the maximum to hold a foreigner) ; We believed it at first as the tone and mood was so convincing. (The sadistic cop probably just gets a kick out of seeing people being shocked)
I struggled my way out of one of the metal handcuffs, but was then told that if I even tried to escape they'd kill me.
The next day the great news came that the ambassador from Spain had arrived and all Spanish and Basque people would be released asap. They were out early early in the morning.
The word was that the beatings of them had been televised in Spain, and Catalnonyan anarchists had threatened to 'burn down Barcelona - if the government would not get them out immediately ; And as there were Basques locked up as well, ETA had threatened to set off car bombs all over the country if no action was taken immediately. They were on their way to Spain before the sun was up.
The rest followed later ; I was the only Belgian there, and the only one of 5 who had been abused ; the consul of the Belgian Embassy came to personally pick me up, and got me to Prague, where I had 24 hours to leave the country. The Czech cops on the street simply made me want to get the hell out of there asap, so I took the metro/bus to the airport, no planes to Brussels, so I flew (or 'fleed'if you want) to Paris, and trained it to Brussels right after arrival in Paris, to be picked up at 5 am by my sister. Expensive ordeal, but... Home sweet home !
There were supposedly 114 arrestees at that center, but far more have been arrested we were told. Americans we there as well ; no clue as to what happened to them ; my guess they were bussed to germany as well, but I'm not 100% certain. Greetings from Europe, as the sun rises here on a better day than yesterday...
Were you arrested? Check out http://www.crosswinds.net/~jailsolidarity who are putting together personal reports of what happened to those arrested.
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