Anti-IMF demonstrators flood into Prague
Border crossings into the Czech Republic have been jammed as thousands of anti-globalisation protesters began streaming into the country for next week's International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meeting which opens on September 26. Motorists on the Austrian, German, Polish and Slovak borders were delayed for up to eight hours as the police checked almost every vehicle for weapons, ammunition and explosives, fearing that they would be used in riots during the September 19-28 summit. Long delays were also reported at Prague airport and on the railways. The police and groups organising the protests reported that scores of people had been turned back at the border, mostly to Germany. A camp on the outskirts of Prague has been set up by the umbrella group, Initiative Against Economic Globalisation. "Our prime concern is to ensure the smooth-running of the conference", said police president, Jiri Kolar. He said there is close cooperation with officers from the FBI and Scotland Yard. The Czech police had lists of "several hundred people whose entry into the Czech Republic is undesirable at the time of the meeting", including protesters who took part in the May Day riots in London. About 23,000 delegates to the IMF and WB conference and 15,000 to 25,000 protesters are expected to attend the meeting, according to the police. Eleven thousand police officers, more than a quarter of the country's entire force, and 1,600 soldiers will be present in Prague. About 100 independent observers will monitor the actions of the police. "We've never had to deal with anything like this before", a police spokeswoman, Ivana Zelenakova, said. "The water cannons have not been used since the demonstrations in the run- up to the `Velvet Revolution' of 1989, so we're having to dust them off." Teargas equipment has been borrowed from Germany. "The British police persuaded us to use mounted police because they create a distinct psychological advantage by towering above protesters", said Ms Zelenakova.