Interior minister calls for rubber bullets for police after IMF meeting

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Demonstrators clashed with police during last week's IMF/World Bank session in Prague. The next time street protests turn violent in the Czech Republic, there's a good chance the police will use rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross says he will initiate changes in the law on assembly which would give the police more power in suppressing street disturbances. Alena Skodova has the details:

In the wake of last week's large demonstrations and violent clashes in Prague that accompanied the annual IMF/World Bank session in the Czech capital, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said during a TV debate on Sunday that he would initiate changes in the law on assembly. Under the new law demonstrators would be forbidden to cover their faces. But the minister has come up with yet another idea--he wants police to be able to use rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators and restore order.

All this came in reaction to the violent demonstrations Prague witnessed during the gathering of the world's leading financiers last week. Gross said the fact that many demonstrators were wearing scarves or gas masks made the work of the police even more difficult. The Interior Minister added he thought it would be worth initiating discussion about a possible increase in police powers. "What I have in mind," Gross said, "are rubber bullets or some other weapons which could eliminate within 10 or 15 meters rioters throwing stones or Molotov cocktails at policemen. The minister said that the present law does not allow this, and he also rejected the view of the chairman of the opposition Civic Democratic Party, Miroslav Macek, who said the police last week "could have replied to rioting anti-globalization activists by shooting." "That sounds like a really stupid idea to me," Gross replied, adding that if police had opened fire, either he or a high-ranking police officer would be now sitting in a police cell.