This is the e-mail from Damaino and Cristina from Teatro del Corvo, July 2001
Here is our report of our participation to the anti-G-8 demonstration in Genoa on July 19-20-21, 2001.
It was intended to be sent primarily to Peter Schumann of the Bread and Puppet Theater, but we think it could be interesting to everybody, so we forward it to several people we know.
We have to tell a few things before, just to make understand better the context. Our participation to the anti-G8 was somehow decided back in February, after a workshop we organized with Peter at the University of Pavia, near Milano. A group of 40 young people, mostly students, took part there to a 10 days long workshop which produced a street parade and an indoor show on the themes of globalization, economy and ecology. The parade was repeated in may at a street theater festival near Milano, with half of the people of the workshop and new people, friends and volunteers. It was called "The parade of the Same Boat". As for the original show in Pavia, it was composed by a brass band, a stilter-flag weaver at the beginning, a group of demons (puppets and masks made out of junk representing the "demons of progress", like Death Penalty, Garbage, Biotechnology, and so on) a big sail boat made with painted fabric and sticks which reads on the sides "We are all on the same boat" and finally a group of Green Men, representing nature.
The parade had a simple action that was repeated during the path: the demons would attack the boat and the people in it, which would fall down; the green men come and help the boat to rise again. At the very end of the parade we read a Peter's fiddle sermon and we performed the cantastoria "Courage".
So we did in Pavia and in may at the festival, with enthusiastic participation of the people in the show and astonished reactions of the people in the audience, being performed the parade in two very bourgeois and conservative towns.
But the nice thing was that many people of the workshop and many newcomers for the second show formed a sort of a group that stayed in touch and discussed and worked together, starting from this experience. After February, the members of the brass band we got together for the show started to gather every week and founded a marching band which is getting bigger and bigger (they just bought a bass drum before to go to Genoa). Their aim was to set a band in order to play during demonstrations and other political public events, as there are already in many other towns in Italy.
Anyway, this was what happened before July
Already in may we had some contacts about how to participate to the anti-G8, with some NGO and pacifist associations that were organizing it. It was hard to figure out, because things were very unclear, especially about whether the government would allow the setting up of an area where the anti-gobalization protesters could go to get together, to sleep, to organize, to speak. This was unclear until early July, when they allowed the anti-G8 to settle at the Genoa fairgrounds, on the east side of town. This late probably affected the organization of the whole thing, which was anyway good as long as the conditions allowed it.
It was clear to us that it would have been impossible to bring the parade as it was originally, because the situation would have been the one of a huge mass demonstration, with little possibilities of any theatrical performance. And as a matter of fact, there would have not been any audience on the sidewalk to look at it, because the inhabitants of Genoa were not there: the whole historical center of the town, called "The red zone" was completely off limits for any kind of demonstration, and in the other parts of the town there wasn't much people around. The area where the anti-G8 settled was not far from the town center, in a newer part of the city, in front of the sea. Speeches, meetings, concerts and so on were held mainly in a sort of a big cement parking lot where they set tents, stands of associations, a stage, a kitchen and other common places.
There were other places like a Media Center, not far from there, set up in a school building, and places like schools, social centers, soccer stadiums, parks and campsites, where the people went to sleep, scattered all over the east side of Genoa, until town at the borders, a few kilometers away from the center of the anti-G8 place. The demonstrations took place all on this side of the town, and, of course, all outside the "Red Zone". The Red Zone included the main part of the historical center of Genoa, which is very ancient, made mostly of very narrow alleys going down and uphill, like a casbah, which end sometime in small squares and in a few bigger streets. They started to set up the blocking of this part of town many months ago. They also started to control everybody who is living there since February, almost inspecting the houses, and giving passes and badges to the inhabitants As a matter of fact, everybody who was living in the red zone had to have a pass, and had to declare if they were going to have guests during the days of the G8, in order to ask to the police for passes for them as well. The police started to register people and give passes in march.
From July 18th to the 21st whoever was living there had to show the pass in order to get out from the red zone, and under every request by the police. The police started to go around controlling people in the red zone and further since early June, stopping people and asking for IDs. Then, the week before the G8, they built sort of a wall all along the red zone. (I forgot to say that in the middle of the red zone there is the Ducal Palace, which was the site where the G8 met). All along the border of the red zone they closed alleys and streets with tall structures made with scaffolding pipes, wire nets, metal panels. Some of them had a door. The people had to pass trough the door, having every time IDs and passes checked by the police. Somebody found a similarity with this and the wall that the nazis built in Warsaw around the Jewish ghetto. A magazine published pictures of both the wall and I have to say that the similarity it's really impressive, especially seen after what happened afterwards.
During the week of the G8, which means even many days before the actual meeting, the center of the town of Genoa was like a desert. It looked like a dead town. It was very impressive to us, because we know it very well, and we are used to see it like a very busy and alive town, with people from all over the world around all time. The center of Genoa, unlike many other places now devoted to tourism or business, like Florence or Milano, it's still full of people that live and work there. But now shops were closed, most of the people was away, no scooters, no buses, nothing. This was due also to a media campaign that on the previous months aimed to scare the people. People was afraid of protesters, bombs, terrorists of any kind. And the police went from shop to shop advising them to close for their safe. All the windows of the shops in the center and all over east part of town where closed with boards and metal panels.
The tension about G8 arose already a few days before the beginning of it, when, every single day, there were alarms about bombings all over the country. Some of them were real, the main part of them were not. An envelope with a small fire-bomb inside injured a policeman in a police station on the outskirts of Genoa on July 16th, and another one did the same to a secretary of a famous TV journalist the day after (by the way, he's the conductor a the news of one of Berlusconi's TV channels). Some other bombs or so-called bombs were found in the proximity of so-called anti globalization targets. Many alarm were just unreal, due to the tension that was created by the other ones. About that here is a funny story: in a Carabinieri (part of the police) station arrived a fat envelope that was found "suspicious". Thinking that it might have been a bomb, they dip it into water, only to find out that it was containing just invoices and forms. These coming outs of bombs are very typical of Italy: especially before elections or important political events they come out, along with Red Brigades or other communist terrorist groups that suddenly disappear right after. It was clear already, and it is clearer now, how all these things were part of a plan of criminalizing the anti-global movement, a plan that was set up in details, as I will tell ahead.
The anti-G8 was organized by the Genoa Social Forum, which gathered over than 1000 associations, groups, NGOs, unions, parties, and so on, from nuns and capucines friars (which I really saw during the demonstrations clasping arms together with communists and pacifists) to punk-anarchists squatters. Such a wide range of such different people of course scared the government. The Genoa Social Forum made an issue from the beginning: the anti-G8 meeting would have been a nonviolent, pacifist and yet strong demonstration of dissent against the G8 policy and the existence of the G8 itself. Even squatters and social centers, that are not known for being very pacifist, usually, agreed with this issue.
Now, it's very hard to tell in few lines the complicate political situation, what happened before and during the G8 week, so probably the best thing it's now to start to tell what happened day by day on that weekend, hoping that the facts will speak by themselves. We'll tell it from our point of view, which is the one of our personal participation, including as much as possible the chronicle of the happenings and the interpretations that people did of them. Here we go.
The works of the Social Forum started already on Monday, with meetings, speeches and other happenings, mostly people of different organizations speaking about the issues connected with globalization, fair trade, third world debt and so on. On Wednesday the works started to be busier, with people from all over the world speaking in several meetings. Meanwhile, people was coming to town, by train, car, buses, etc. , coming as the first thing into Kennedy Square, the place by the Fair where the Social Forum was held, asking for directions about where to go and to sleep. Volunteers were at this place all the time answering to any sort of questions. Some would also go to pick up groups of people at the train station and bring them to the camp sites or the schools. Only one of the two main stations of Genova was open, and only for special trains, which means trains organized by groups, unions, associations and so on. On the night of Wednesday there was a big concert of the singer Manu Chao, with thousands of people attending.
On Thursday was scheduled the demonstration of the migrants: the themes of it were immigrant's rights, anti-racism, freedom of circulation for the people and the exploitation of the third world. We decided to go, just me and Cristina and two other friends, and to come back at night, in order to be able on Saturday to go together with the people of Pavia.
Since there were rumors of troubles about going with the trains, we took our van. We cleaned it very well taking out whatever could seem any kind of weapon, or stick, or offensive object, because the people that was already in Genova told us that the police out of the highway exits and all over town was very tough about it. There were voices about some people arrested because they had a matinee. These rumors were confirmed by our friends that live in Genova, some close to the Red Zone, that said that the police had been very fuzzy about controlling everything and everybody since many weeks. We brought with us an immigrant clandestine puppet called doctor Ahmed, which had been in many other demonstrations already. Instead of his wooden holster we arranged it with two cardboard pipes taped together, so he looked as armless as possible.
When we got to Genova on Thursday at noon we found out that all this work was useless, because there weren't controls at all. We never saw a police officer until we got to Kennedy Square, and even there there were not many of them. Scared of possible fighting or other things (in the previous days the police forced and destroyed many suspicious cars and vans fearing of bombs) we left the van very faraway from the Social Forum and took a public bus to get there. But we could have easily parked in front of the place. This almost total lacking of police controls astonished us, because of the news that we had been listening to until that moment.
The base of the Social Forum was very alive, with a lot of people going around, discussing, playing, sleeping and eating. There were tents that hosted several associations and organizations, like Attac, Amnesty, the Lilliput Net, and so on. Across the street, in a small park, there were other tents of environmental and agricultural association. On the grass, Ercolina the cow, the symbol of the dairy farmers that struggle against European Community milk policy, was grazing quietly.
In the afternoon we went towards the gathering place for the demonstration, which was in the historical center, but yet quite far away from the Red Zone border. The first part of the demonstration passed through quite narrow streets then went through bigger ones. We set up our puppet, which had two signs that read Clan-destino globale (clandestine=clandestine, destino=faith, so it was like: global faith) and Sans papiers-sans droits (in French: without papers-without rights). When the demonstration started to move we got close to a big brass band that played all the time, making our puppet dance along. It was clear right away that there were a lot of people, they said then that we were 50.000. The demonstration was peaceful and jolly, and nothing strange happened. The police was hardly seen and stayed pretty much far away. This is quite strange even for a peaceful demonstration in Italy, and it was even stranger seen all the fuss they made up in the days before.
Not all the people of Genova went away, it turned out, because as we passed by people stayed at the windows, many waving flags, red or with Che Guevara, or with the peace sign. Out of many windows and balconies were hung laundry, especially underwear. I will explain this: a few days before Berlusconi said that Genova had to look good for the visit of the other G-8s, so the people had better not to hang up their laundry on the clotheslines during those days. I'm not kidding: it's true. On Monday he also came to town to make sure that the flowers in the pots in the street were looking good, and, in a single day, teams of workers repainted all the facades of the old buildings of the harbor area, where the G-8 were supposed to pass by in their limousines. They also attached with wire lemons to the bushes always in the pots in the streets of the center. So, to make fun of all this, many people had their underwear hung up. Some made also artistic compositions of T-shirts of different colors and socks. Some were just waving their underwear from the window as flags, as the demonstration passed by.
A few years ago, in Palermo, was born the "Sheets Committee": people would hang sheets with writings against Mafia and in support of the judges and lawyers that fought it. The president of this committee proposed to the people of Genova to found an "Underwear Committee" as a form of resistance. But all this was before Friday.
The demonstration ended and after a while started to rain, and we found ourselves among thousands of people going here and there, searching for a public bus or a way to go back where they were sleeping. After waiting for a long while, we got on a crowded bus and got finally to our van. We came back to Milano with no problems at all.
There is a radio that broadcasts from Milano, and is connected in network with many other radios all over Italy, its name is Radio Popolare, or Popolare Network. It's an historical radio of the left, since 1976, and it says many things that are hard to listen from other media, here. During the week of Genova they set up a studio there and were broadcasting several hours every day from Genova. They followed what happened Friday and Saturday almost all the time. So, on Friday, we were listening to the radio (we have no TV), but sometimes people would call us too, and we called some friends in Genova asking about what was going on. What I'm going to tell it's a concentrate of what we listened and then what we read on newspapers and saw on TV in the days after.
The day of Friday was called the day of disobedience. Several groups of different tendencies declared their civil disobedience to the G-8 and to the blocking of the Red Zone. Their aim was to disturb the beginning of the summit and, in some cases to break into the Red Zone only with pacifist methods. Different demonstrations were scheduled in different points of the town, close to the walls built to block the streets. Some of them included theater happenings or music, or sit-ins. On the main squares were placed the most pacifist groups and Attac (the organization that promotes the Tobin Tax and the abolishment of debt). Their breaking through the Red Zone was intended to be mostly symbolic. As a matter of fact they succeeded in breaking one of these walls, just by pushing with the hands, and a girl stepped with one foot into the other side: she was arrested right away. They had also small mirrors with which they bothered the policemen that stood on the other side of the walls by reflecting sunlight. The police on the other side of the walls wouldn't do much: sometimes they kept the protesters away by shooting water with fire hydrants.
All this was going on in the early afternoon, around the Red Zone. Not far away from there, at about the same time, a strange kind of demonstration was starting, coming from the direction of Kennedy square. It was the one led by the White Overalls, with about 15.000 people in it. The White Overalls are a group that was born some years ago in the Leoncavallo Social Center in Milano, and spread out in the country in the last years, in the social centers environment. They were also with the Zapatista March that went to Mexico City recently. They usually dress with white overalls, but in Genova they decided to dress normally. Their aim in Genova was to break into the Red Zone as an act of civil disobedience, but without arms of any sort. They were equipped only to defense themselves, so they had foam rubber wrapped on arms and legs, motorcycle or working helmets, life vests, plexiglas shields and so on, anything to bear the hits of the police. They had been practicing for a long time before. Their leader, Casarini, had previously made agreements with the Minister of Interior and the chief of the police, and anyway their intentions were clearly declared: to break into the Red Zone and to retreat right away.
While all this was going on, some groups of what after were called the "Black Blocks" started to rage in town, first setting on fire garbage cans and cars and smashing some shop windows, not far away from the Red Zone. The police, which, unlike the day before, was present in full straight all over town, didn't do anything to stop them. This policy was kept all day long and the day after, and afterwards it was clear that it was part of a strategy. They just let the Black Blocks do whatever they wanted, they never tried to stop them. There are many and many witnesses that say that.
The Black Blocks were acting in small and fast groups, from 15 people to over 100, were very well trained, as military squads, they hit and fled away, sometimes disguising themselves among the normal demonstrators, sometimes just with a quick change of clothes. They were all dressed in black. I can't really tell who they are, some say that they are radical anarchist groups, coming mostly from Germany and England. But after what happened it's clear that among them there were infiltrated policemen in disguise. And moreover: there are pictures in which some of them are seen talking with police officers outside police stations, and many witnesses saw the same thing. The last news of these days are that some of these black groups were probably formed by fascists and neonazi militants, like the ones of the neofascist organization Forza Nuova. In particular, the GSF already on Wednesday denounced to the police that two buses of Forza Nuova were spotted at their arrival in Genova. The chief of the police of Genova had this information and didn't do anything about.
So, what happened in the mid afternoon of Friday is this:
The Black Blocks, divided in several groups, started to set on fire and destroy things in different parts of the town. Then they ran towards the places where the pacifists and the other groups were, followed by the police. They broke into the demonstrations and fled away right away. When the police arrived, instead of chasing them, started to shoot teargas and to beat the people that was there, trying to disperse the demonstrators. This pattern was followed in any place: the Black Block came, did something and go, the police arrived and charged the demonstrators, chasing them in alleys and streets, beating violently everybody who fell in their hands, disrespectful even for elders, pressmen, photographers, kids. There were groups of people that raised their hands painted in white to show their pacifism that got beaten anyway. During one of these charges two friends of ours that live in Genova, fleeing away from the police, brought after them over than one hundred people in panic through stairs and narrow alleys of the historical center. All this was totally disrespectfed, at least by the pacific protesters. At the same time, the White Overalls demonstration, whose head was organized like a Roman legion, with Plexiglas shields lined up together, was walking very slowly towards the Red Zone. It stopped in a big avenue, and a group of spokesmen, without protections, walked ahead to negotiate with the police. Suddenly one side of the demonstration was attacked by a Carabinieri squad coming from a side street. At the same time the spokesmen and the head of the demonstration were charged by the police. The demonstration broke in several parts and the people scattered in the streets, chased individually by policemen and carabinieri. I don't remember well, but I think that also the Black Block had some part in it.
At this point, the whole east side of Genova, from the historical center to the part close to the Fair, was involved in fighting: teargas all over, beatings, cars, garbage cans, gas stations and shops on fire. The Black Block groups, or whoever was following them, provoked all this. Sometimes other people, coming probably from the White Overalls demonstration, joined them.
Carlo Giuliani was probably one of them. According to witnesses and pictures a group of protesters blocked a carabinieri jeep in a small square, Piazza Alimonda. Strangely, the jeep was left alone by the other carabinieri and police that were around. The protesters smashed the windows of the jeep. One of the carabinieri shot twice towards them, hitting Carlo in the face. The people ran away (not everybody: a photographer of Reuter agency took pictures of the whole sequence, which you have probably seen, another journalist took from the ground the cartridges of the bullets). The jeep quickly set on rear and ran over Carloís body, then changed gear and, running again on the body, went away.
Right after the police came, charged the people that was in the square and surrounded the place where the body was, not allowing anybody to get close. It was around 6 p.m. when we heard from the radio, among the other news of the fighting, that there was a dead. The first version of the police were that he died because he was hit on the head by a stone, or maybe for a heart attact After one or two hours, then, came out that there were pictures of the killing, put on Internet by Reuter agency, and it was clear that it wasn't an accident, because in one of the pictures it's clearly visible the hand of the carabiniere holding the gun in front of Carlo, a moment before the shooting.
At about the same time, there were voices about another dead, a woman that would have been hit by a police armored van, but it was never confirmed. But still today somebody wonders if there weren't other deads, covered-up by the police.
There were 20.000 among policemen, carabinieri, finance police and other police forces, with many helicopters flying all over town all the time, very low on the houses (so that the noise that mainly symbolize those days and it's still stuck in many people's head is the one of the helicopters). But they weren't able to stop a few hundreds of people, all dressed the same, often moving in groups. Is that believable?
The day of Friday ended up very confused. Everybody, fleeing away from the charges of the police, tried to go to Kennedy Square or to the other meeting points, but still at night was dangerous to go around alone or in small groups, because the police was roaming around beating and taking away people randomly. The majority of the people slept in Kennedy Square because they were afraid to go back to their dormitories, unless they could form big groups to move all together. Vittorio Agnoletto, the spokesman of the Genoa Social Forum , made an appeal for the people to come anyway to Genova the next day, to do a big peaceful demonstration as a response to what happened.
Some people called us to ask what we were going to do, if we were still going, if it was safe. We didn't know what to answer, except that, yes, we were still going, because it was even more important, now. The next day, all of them came.
On Saturday morning in Genova, as you can imagine, the situation was very tense. Some thought, optimistically, that because of the violence the day before and because of the dead, the police would have been quiet. Some others were afraid that the rage would have raised even among the nonviolent protesters, and there could have been big troubles because of that. As the facts proved afterwards, this didn't happen, and the people proved to be very responsible in not giving any hint to the police for violence and not falling into provocations by them. If the people actually would have reacted violently to the provocations the massacre would have been much more harder, and there would have been probably more deads. But I'm running ahead. On the night of Friday the GSF asked to the Prime Minister to quit the G-8 summit and to retreat all the police forces from the town, which he didn't do, of course. The only changing was that the carabinieris were kept in their barracks.
Many buses started to arrive in town from all over the country and more, together with many special trains (which were very slow and took long and complicate paths, so it took for example 6 hours from Milano to Genova instead of the regular one hour and a half). The people of Pavia hired a bus: we were about 50 people, including participants to the workshop in February, newcomers of the parade in may and totally new newcomers, and the members of the band, which name is Banda della Ringhiera (the Balcony Railing Band). The leader of the band arranged most of the organization and the bus. There were two other buses coming with us, with people of pacifist, social and environmental organizations of Pavia. These people made a group with us during the demonstration, even tough they weren't using puppets or weren't in the band. So, we had a group of about 150 people in total. When we got out from the highway in Genova the police stopped the buses, as they were doing with any other bus. They took a look in the trunk and made us leave there all the sticks and poles we had. Some where flag sticks, and one was a big bamboo pole that was the mast of our boat. Luckily, they didn't see the two pairs of stilts we had because they were in bags, among other bags. They didn't notice also the stick of the flag that Peter painted in February, that was supposed to lead the parade. The police told us where the buses had to park waiting for the end of the demonstration.
We got into town. It was a bright, sunny day, with the breeze coming from the sea. Going towards the gathering place, the bus passed by Piazza Alimonda. The spot where Carlo Giuliani was killed was covered with flowers and pieces of papers with writings.
We dropped out of the bus close to a soccer stadium, on east Genova, transformed in a campsite, with hundreds of tents and people camping. It was around 10.30 am. We followed the stream of people that were already heading towards the gathering point of the demonstration, a square and some streets around, almost along the sea, at about 3 or 4 kilometers east from Kennedy square, which was more or less half the way of the demonstration's path. We met very different groups of people: unions, environmentalists, punks, factory workers, of all ages, but mostly young. Everybody had banners, signs and flags. Our group, not yet with mounted puppets and instruments, had somehow a weird looking: at the head there was Peter's flag, picturing a black and white flying skeleton with wings, on a gray field! We are sure that many people stared at us wondering what the hell that meant and who we were... We arrived to the gathering point, where there was already a lot of people, and we went a little further, to a small park, to start to set up everything. The air was tense but at the same time jolly, because it was clear that there would have been thousands and thousands of people, way more than were expected. We found a big pole in some bushes, but it turned out to be too heavy for the boat, especially because the boat holders were not trained. Then a smart guy in our group found some bamboo canes, still green: we taped four of them together. This mast was kind of saggy and elastic, but it worked good enough. After some rehearsals the group was ready and we started to go to the gathering place.
During all this time helicopters were flying over the neighborhood insistently, very low.
A little before the starting point we found out that the street was blocked by several police armored vans, and somebody of the organization told us to go down from another street in order to join the demonstration that was already going. We went down on this street playing and slowly inserted our group into the main flow of the demonstration. We found ourselves in the first part of it, not quite at the head, but not even in the middle. Because of this, so only by chance, we weren't involved later in the main fighting
The first part of the path was along the sea, in a long avenue. People were not only in the middle of the street but also on the sidewalks, because there was no room for everybody. It went very slow because of the number of people. Because of the fear of troubles all the groups were trying to stay close to each other and to compact the course of the demonstration, trying also in this way to keep outside the eventual provokers. In many cases it happened that the Black Blocks or other people with sticks and helmets were thrown out of the demonstration by organized groups of people.
We soon discovered that our band had a good function in all this situation: every time that there was tension just the fact that the band was playing served to calm down the people around, to make them dance and singing and stay close together. We had a very small repertory, that played over and over: some partisan's songs, the Internationale, Bella Ciao and a couple of dixielands, plus a lot of drumming in between and improvisations. We were going downhill until, after a curve, we finally came on sight of Kennedy Square in the distance. It was possible to see until the head of the demonstration, which was very big. They said there were over 200.000 people. Our sail was waving in the wind and the people in the boat was surrounded by other people walking, but at this point it wasn't important if the theatrical part was loose, it was important just to be there. We had also some girls wearing cardboard wings with words on them, flying in between the band, the demons and the boat.
Everybody stopped for a while, and in the distance started to be visible some black smoke, coming from one corner of Kennedy Square, and right after clouds of teargas started to raise from the same place.
It happened that a group of Black Blocks sneaked in between the head of the demonstration and the police that was settled by Kennedy Square. They set on fire cars and a bank, provoking the police. The police, instead of charging them, shot lots of teargas behind them, right in the direction of the demonstration, with the clear intention to break it up. In spite of that the demonstration stayed on its path, turned a corner and went where it was supposed to go, into an avenue called Corso Torino that led into town, in the opposite direction of the sea.
There was a moment of panic in our section and the people ahead started to run back, but they were calmed down right away, and we started to walk again. We were in a very dangerous position: on our left there was a cliff and the sea, on our right a very tall wall, the only way to escape was just to go back, which was dangerous too because of all the people that was there. At this point we judged that it was unsafe to keep the puppets and the boat. So, before to move, we set down the boat and put it in a case we had, and abandoned the cardboard puppets on the sidewalk. We taught that it was not safe for the people to keep them, in case we had to run and leave quickly. Luigi, who was on stilts with Peter's flag, took them of, but before he threw the boat pole and sticks into the sea, so they couldn't have been used as weapon by anybody. The band kept playing, and it was very useful in that moment: people stayed by us, not only the ones of our group, because they thought that if we were still playing, nothing bad could happen around us. We kept marching until we were in the avenue. Behind us there was a lot of people.
As we learned afterwards, after a while that our section of the demonstration went in the avenue the police shot again lots of teargas and this time charged violently the middle of the demonstration, right where we were before, in between the sea and the wall. They charged and beat to the blood whole group of people that were sitting or kneeling on the ground with raised hands symbolizing that they were peaceful and harmless. This was the real beginning of the massacre. The middle part of the demonstration spread out in various chunks in the streets around (we are talking of thousands of people), running away from the police and also from the Black Block, that, at the same time were roaming from street to street, still undisturbed, smashing things and cars, setting on fire garbage cans and burning the underneath of a bridge where we just passed by ten minutes before.
From where we were, we could see both the smoke of the fires and the teargas, half a kilometer behind us.
The police started to chase also the people that was already in the avenue, which tried to escape in small alleys or into the doors of the buildings. Many inhabitants of Genova gave shelter to the people escaping from the police. Two friends of us went into a door that a woman opened, and waited for nearly one hour for things to calm down. But every time they put their nose out of the door it was impossible to go because of the thick cloud of teargas. At a certain point, somebody came over saying that the police was going door to door taking out the people and bringing them away, where it was easier to beat them without witnesses. So they left and found themselves in a street with other people fleeing. Even tough they were clearly leaving, the police would keep shooting towards them teargas, aiming straight to the people with the teargas guns.
In another place, two young men, chased by the police, found themselves in a blind alley. An armored police van went in full speed towards them, and they saved themselves only by falling down from a 5 meters wall trough a tree, into an elderly hospital backyard. One of them broke a leg. While they were laying on the ground, from above a policeman, aiming to them with a rifle, shouted, asking them to tell where the rest of their group was, or he would kill them. They were saved by the intervention of the director of the hospital.
There are many tales like these: people beaten hard all over the body with clubs, girls dragged on the ground by their hair, policemen kicking with their boots in the stomach and in the chest people already on the ground, people brought in alleys or behind police jeeps and beaten hardly. Even people that had nothing to do with the demonstration, like photographers, pressmen, passersby's were beaten and sometimes arrested or brought in the police stations. Photographers and pressmen had all a very visible badge and a yellow plastic vest with "Press" written on it, so it was clear who they were.
This attack to the demonstration was probably programmed in advance. They couldn't bear that such a big pacific demonstration could go undisturbed, they used once again the Black Blocks as an excuse to engage a fight with the people in the demonstration, but the people didn't fall in the trap. They let, hand raised, the police to charged them, and then they tried to run away. I'm speaking of all the people of any kind. In spite of that, anyway, the government tried, and it's still trying, to let pass the theory that there was no difference between the violent protesters and the Genoa Social Forum. Looks like the government needed the fighting in order to be able to say this, and they were probably expecting that the people, tired and angry, would attack the police in mass, which didn't happen.
Moreover: along the last part of the path of the demonstration, this big avenue I told you, there were many streets crossing it. In the agreements made between GSF and the police, it was said that these streets should have been free. Instead, all of them were closed by big containers that made wall across them, or were blocked by police armored vans, leaving no way to escape from the main avenue.
After the middle part of the demonstration was dispersed, the tail of it, which was still huge, about 50.000 people, was blocked on the street along the sea, and was forced to go back by the police. They walked all the way back, for nearly 7 kilometers until Nervi, a small town at the border of Genova, where later they got back on buses and trains.
At the same time, the part of the demonstration where we were, got closer to the end of the path, which was a small square with a stage set in it. It was a very hot day, and from the houses along the avenue the people threw down on the demonstrators buckets of water, food, bottles of water. Somebody even sprinkled water with a garden hose.
When we arrived in the square we tried to get out of it as soon as possible, because the fighting were getting closer. For all the time of the demonstration Cristina listened with an earphone to Radio Popolare, which was telling everything, so we were able, as many others that had the same idea, to know what was going on.
Always playing, this time to make easier to our people to stay together, we arrived to the soccer stadium parking lot, a huge place where there were over than 50 buses waiting. There is something to say about this place. On one corner there is a jail (yes, a jail in the middle of the town it's very usual in Italy). The day before, Friday, this was one of the places attacked by the Black Blocks: before they came, the police squad that was there left, leaving only a few penitentiary guards in defense of the jail. The Black Block threw molotovs and set on fire the door, then left.
We sat down by our bus, as hundreds of people around, listening to the radio. At a certain point we heard a reporter that was speaking right from the other side of the parking lot, and he was saying that there was a charge of the police there. We had just the time to get up that a cloud of teargas came over. Everybody got on the buses, and after a while the cloud passed by. This charge, like many others, was made with no reason at all. It was normal for them to charge and beat even people that was going away.
By now, the fighting had involved all the avenue where we were until half an hour before. The police started to chase people individually, whoever looked like a demonstrator was beaten and often brought to the police stations. Helicopters kept flying, their noise mixing with the one of ambulances and police cars. Tall columns of black smoke came up from different places. After a while we left.
Now comes the last act of that day.
Late in the night between Saturday 21 and Sunday 22, a group of 60 policemen burst into the Armando Diaz school, a place where many people were sleeping, and right after they broke into another school just across the street, where the Genoa Social Forum offices were based, and where there was also a media Center. They had no search warrant. The excuse was that in the first school, according to the police, there were people making part of the Black Block and other violent protesters. They beat hard everybody, even journalists and photographers, dragging people down from the stairs, knocking heads on the walls and so on. Across the street, they smashed computers and confiscated hard disks and materials that possibly proved the violence of the police against harmless people during the previous days. As a matter of fact, their main target was the Media Center. Vittorio Agnoletto, the GSF spokesman, just few hours before said during a TV broadcast that he had pictures and videos that proved that among the Black Blocks there were infiltrated policemen, and that they were taking orders from police stations. It is true, everybody saw those pictures afterwards, because the police didn't find them at the Media Center. They arrested 93 people at the Diaz school, and many went to hospital with serious injuries. A few days after, 92 of the arrested were released, with no charges at all. The foreigners among them (there were English, Germans, Spanish, Swiss and from other countries), anyway, were sent right away back to their countries, and now are not allowed to come back to Italy for 5 years. This is very uncommon and goes against Italian laws, because they were found innocent and their arrest was not confirmed by the judge. During the permanence in jail or in police stations the people arrested were subject to body and psychological tortures, and were beaten all the time.
This happened almost to everybody who had been arrested or simply kept in police and carabinieri stations. In the first days people were not allowed to talk with the lawyers, and it was denied to lawyers to go to look for them. This is against constitutional rights. Sometimes it was denied to see the people arrested or in hospitals even to members of the Parliament, which, in theory, could go anywhere.
In the hospitals, the reception was no kept by normal employees and nurses, but by police officers, that controlled everybody that came in and out. The lists of the people arrested or in hospitals were denied by the police to lawyers and to whoever else, so that the GSF lawyers did a hard work by themselves to understand how many people and who was still in jail, police stations and hospitals. There were scores of desaparecidos for many days. Some hospital employees would sneak out undetected by the police, to give to the GSF lawyers list of people arrived in the hospitals after being beaten.
Silvio Berlusconi, going to the last meeting with the G-8s, passed through the main street of the historical center. People from the windows shouted to him: Murderer!î and Shame on you. He declared that the G-8 was a success and that it was a pity that there have been fighting and a dead, but that it wasn't his fault. He gave his full support to the police, saying that it worked very professionally. The carabiniere that killed Carlo Giuliani acted for self-defense. The violent protesters were supported by the GSF.
Monday 23 and following days
In the Parliament, the Minister of Interiors, Scajola, first speak at the Senate Committee, and goes away without listening to the questions of the senators, and then speaks at the Chamber. He says the same things of Berlusconi, more in details, denying even evidence when he speaks about the fighting The oppositions ask for his resignation and for an inquiring committee.
On Monday some spontaneous demonstrations all over Italy protest for what happened in Genova.
On Tuesday the GSF asks for a widespread protest. In the course of the day all over the country, from big towns to small ones there are demonstrations, sit-in, speeches, happenings: over than 100.000 people in the streets. In Milano around 9.30 PM from Piazza del Duomo a 30.000 people demonstration moves towards the prefecture. Nothing bad happens, no violence at all, like any other demonstration in the country the same day. There is not police at all. Only a traffic policeman to stop the cars. At about midnight the demonstration ends. It could have been the same in Genova, but they didn't let it happen so.
Here ends our report. There should be hundreds of things to say still, but the situation its very complicate and it would be hard to explain everything deeply. We prefer to let the naked facts speaking by themselves. What we wrote it's true. Now, we are worried about what lies ahead. The government's position gets tougher and tougher every day, they absolve completely themselves and we are afraid that the inquiring committee won't be able to tell the truth. Democracy is in danger, here, keep an eye on us.
Damiano and Cristina, Teatro del Corvo, Milano July 31, 2001
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