Italy: Anarchists plot medieval warfare at G8 summit
PDTSATURDAY JUNE 23 2001
FROM DAVID LISTER IN GENNOA
ANARCHISTS preparing to disrupt next month's G8 summit in Genoa are threatening a seaborne assault of up to 4,000 protesters and a medieval-style attack using catapults and battering rams to smash through a ring of steel in the city centre.
The Italian hardline movement known as the Tute Bianche — the White Overalls — is using training camps in Milan and Genoa to teach its members how to fight police and to march in tight columns using homemade shields as protection from baton charges. It said yesterday that British anarchists from the Wombles organisation were expected to be among up to 10,000 people who will try to force their way into the meeting.
The Tute Bianche intensified its plans after police in Gothenburg helped to keep rioters in check this month by placing metal freight containers around the Swedish city, stopping them from reaching the summit of EU leaders.
The anarchists are preparing to use battering rams to force their way past similar obstacles in Genoa and are building giant catapults to hurl objects such as dead fish and paint at police, according to the city's newspaper.
They will carry ammunition in wooden "siege carts" and will try to catch teargas canisters in large nets. They have been told to offset the effects of teargas with lemon juice on their faces and by washing their eyes with water.
Protesters have been trained in marching in turtle formation, a method used by the Romans, in which the front row of an advancing column raises its shields vertically while those behind hold them over their heads. Other training includes advice on how to remain calm and defence against baton charges, according to witnesses who have attended the camps.
Luca Mondo, one of the camp teachers, said: "We will do whatever we have to to get into the summit and to stop it from happening. When the police start hitting us, we will go on pushing them and we will be enough to pass through. I believe the real violence will be by the police." Last weekend, at a lake near Milan, the group simulated an attack on Genoa's port using canoes, rafts and tyres. "There will be 3,000-4,000 of us in the water," Signor Mondo said.
The Tute Bianche is part of a coalition of more than 700 anti-G8 protest groups called the Genoa Social Forum, which is hoping that nearly 100,000 demonstrators will be in the city for the summit during July 20-22, compared with 20,000 who travelled to Gothenburg this month. Most protesters are expected to be peaceful. Demonstrations will begin with a protest by immigrants and will include sit-ins.
Up to 20,000 police and troops will be deployed, as opposed to 2,000 in Gothenburg. They will be backed by 15 helicopters, four aircraft and seven naval boats. The city will be closed to the outside world and separated into an inner red zone, off limits to demonstrators, and an outer yellow area, where they can hold protests.
There has been speculation that President Bush may be based on an aircraft carrier, but the White House said that it was looking at the possibility of staying in cruise ships provided by the Italian Government or in an hotel in the red zone. One reason for concern about security is the apparent lack of communication between the Centre Left city council, which welcomes the demonstrators, and the local prefetto, the Chief of Police appointed by the Interior Ministry. The council has virtually no role in the security preparations and the only public officials under its control who will be on the streets are the city's traffic wardens, who are permitted to carry guns but rarely use them. By contrast, the prefetto is responsible for the civil police as well as the carabinieri, a military division of the police that ultimately is accountable to the Defence Minister. Both will be on the streets in force during the summit. Italian troops are likely to play a support role.