Czechs target McDonald's in G8 protest

THE DAMAGE might have been small, but the ideological symbolism of violence in the streets of Prague at the weekend was of greater significance.

Four police officers were injured and several dozen people were arrested in protests in which shop windows, including that of McDonald's on Wenceslas Square, were smashed.

The demonstrations, which also targeted a Kentucky Fried Chicken shop, were against the growing influence of multinational corporations and their effect on the environment. They began with an open air rock concert billed as the "Global Street Party '98", timed to coincide with the G8 summit in Birmingham, and ended with a punch-up in Wenceslas Square. This square was the cradle of the 1989 "velvet revolution" where a quarter of a million Czechs gathered and in the course of a week peacefully brought down their communist government.

In the years after 1989, Prague underwent a renaissance - politically, under its world-famous playwright president, Vaclav Havel, and economically. It became a magnet, too, for Western youth. What Paris had been to bohemian Americans in the 1930s, Prague became in the 1990s.

The once-quiet Charles Bridge, one of the city's most famous and elegant landmarks, became so crowded at all hours of the day with thousands of tourists and temporary residents, that it was scarcely possible to glimpse the bridge itself.

Czechs were not always enthusiastic about all the changes that were taking place. The tourism boom brought millions of pounds of much needed foreign currency, as Prague became a number-one destination in the holiday brochures. But Czechs themselves often felt left out of the loop. Radical economic change brought high unemployment and poverty. There was the constant tension, too, between the need to do everything possible to bring foreign money into the city and the need to preserve the distinctive character of Prague.

And while communist repression has gone, there have been big cuts in education and health spending, and there are homeless people on the streets.

The weekend violence came as several thousand people, protesting over these changes as much as alleged damage to the environment perpetrated by multinationals, left the concert and marched on the city centre. A small group hurled paving stones and broke the glass windows of McDonald's - the third such attack.

Mainstream environmental groups were quick to condemn the violence. Greenpeace regretted that the protest had been described as ecological, "because that damages the image of preserving nature and the environment". The chairman of the environmental pressure group Duha complained: "This is abusing the name of the environmental movement."

Martin Bursik, the Environment Minister, also drew a line between the demonstrations and other environmental groups. He invited Green organisations for a meeting yesterday, and argued: "Nobody can seriously think that the programme of the ecological movement equals looting and stealing salami."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own