Nick Carey - a Radio Prague journalist at the wrong end of a police truncheon

Nick Carey

As this month's huge NATO summit in Prague draws nearer, memories of the street fighting of two years ago during the city's IMF/World Bank conference again seem very fresh. Thousands of anti-globalisation protestors converged on the Czech capital and, although most protests were peaceful, there were also several dramatic and violent clashes with the police. At that time the Scottish journalist Nick Carey was working here at Radio Prague. He was out in the streets covering the demonstrations and suddenly found himself in a frightening situation, as police charged into the group of demonstrators he was interviewing. Here Nick recalls that moment.

"Late afternoon, after following demonstrators around all day during the IMF/World Bank conference, I ended up just below the Palace of Culture by the Vysehrad metro station amid a group of peaceful demonstrators - about 50 or 60 of them - who were singing and clapping and chanting. A couple of them had guitars. They were basically probably your modern day definition of a hippy or a new-age traveller. And all of a sudden a line of policemen appeared and started first of all banging their shields with their truncheons, and when the demonstrators stood up and tried to explain that they were peaceful, the police charged straight into them and started beating them repeatedly with truncheons. They beat a couple of them senseless, who were eventually carried away from the area, and started herding the rest of us down the hill from the Palace of Culture. And when you get about fifty yards away from the Palace of Culture, you reach a very steep embankment that drops down onto a road. It's almost impossible to climb down. If you climb down you have to do it very, very carefully. And we were being pushed down towards that and a policeman started shoving me in the back on the way down and said: "Go faster," and I turned round - I'm wearing a red vest that says PRESS on it in English and in Czech, so it's very clear I'm a journalist - and I said to him: "I'm going as fast as I can," at which point he belted me across the back of my head very hard with his truncheon and said: "You're not going fast enough," at which point I moved a hell of a lot faster. But the problem was that there was a very small group of people left at the top of this embankment, enclosed from two sides by police, and eventually we had about maybe 20 people having to slide down a concrete embankment down to the road. So it was a very frightening experience altogether but very interesting to see how the Czech police reacted to peaceful demonstrators after seeing the violence during the day in other parts of the city."