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human & civil rights | police / legal

What I Saw in Genova

350,000 in the streets, direct action, reformist bullshit and intense police brutality.
This is a hastily written, first-hand account of what I saw in Genova. I am writing it in attempt to counteract the lies and propaganda that people are getting from the media. For reasons of personal safety, I cannot affix my name to it.
We came into Genova to find that the police state described by friends in Torino was as of yet not in effect. It was quite easy to enter the city without dealing with police, and we found one of the Genova Social Forum (GSF) sanctined campsites right away. Friends old and new poured in over the next few days. The 19th was the march for immigrant rights. There were about 50,000 people marching and it was very successful. The police did major muscle flexing with riot gear, scary looking guns and armored personell carriers, but everyone present (including anarchists and black block-not, of course, contiguous categories) was well aware that the everything had to be completely tranquilo to protect the interests of the immigrants. Fruitless meetings went well into the next morning, but of course, things still managed to come together somehow. Various groups and clusters demonstrated on the 20th, the Day of Direct Action, to either disrupt business as usual in Genova, or attempt to breach the red zone itself. Pacifists, Greens, Anti-Nuke people and Catholics formed non- violent blockades of streets just outside of the red zone. Ya Basta/Tutti Bianchi (the white overalls) attempted to enter through the main street leading right to the palace where the summit took place. A huge union march and the Italian black block marched from the industrial west; some attempted to breach the red zone, but most did not. COBAS (a large, militant, independent union), the network for global rights, workers' autonomy and the international balck block marched in from the east and tried to attack the red zone. Actually, it seems the largest part of this march was held up by a preventative police strike for most of the day and never even made it into the yellow zone. (I should also mention that two squatted social centers (Imensa and Penelli) were raided on the evening of the 19th and many arrests were made. We still have no news on these folks, as everything has since overshadowed the attack on these usual suspect types.) A Pink Block of creative, "tactically frivolous" clowns, fairies, freaks and a samba band also tried to get in. No one can really say all of what happened, but it appears that no one successfully breached the red zone. This came as no surprise to me personally. We had the opportunity to walk through it when we arrived, and these fences were no nonsense. Not the school yard chain link bullshit they used in Quebec. We're talking thick iron mesh bolted into concrete freeway barriers, which were in turn bolted into the ground and the walls. What's more, side streets within the red zone itself were all fenced in this way, so that even a successful breach of one fence would lead to another corral and certain attack. Speaking of the police, there were 15,000 on hand. Also some French cops, military, and untold numbers of foreign secret service type spooks. The GSF convergence center was directly adjacent to the kilometers long police compound. This was only one of the more obvious of the serious errors and underhanded political manouvers made by the GSF, but now is not yet the time to reflect on that, I think. Anyway, on the 20th street fights and rioting happened all around the red zone. Normal Genovese seemed by most accounts pretty unconcered, except when several grocery stores were looted, when many of them are said to have done some quick shopping. As this long, hectic day was drawing to a close, we happened upon a Plaza that was eerily silent, although about 200 people were in it, facing off about 50 riot cops. Due to the silence, we at first thought it was a religious or pacifist blockade. We walked up to the front lines and saw the medics wrapping the body of Carlo Giuliani in plastic. The pool of drying blood on the ground was huge. People went nuts. Crying, screaming, some throwing stones. The riot police looked absolutely terrified. It was the only time I've looked into the eyes of a cop and seen that even in their worldview, they were absolutely wrong and the hate and rage of the crowd was completely justified. I should mention that the shooting of Giuliani happened probably two or three kilometers from the red zone, where there was nothing that the police had any interest or desire in defending. I read an account in the local press that the 20 year old cop who shot him said he couldn't see anything when he fired. Nice time to shoot a gun eh? Also pretty good luck to hit someone right between the eyes when you can't see. Anyway, the pictures speak for themselves, and the impact of this death will be felt for many many years I think. We were livid and unable to think clearly, so we beat a quick trail back to the camp. No one knew what to think that night, but we assumed mass anger would be the order of the day on the 21st, slated to be the largest of the demonstrations. What actually transpired was that the GSF cowardly called off all demonstration because of the death. Some groups heeded the cancellation, but most did not. The 21st saw the largest mass demonstration in Europe in at least 10 years. The underestimation of numbers seems to be strongest in the US press, but the mainstream Italian media was saying 200,000. Factor in the usual underestimation, that the official platform actually cancelled the demo, that movement sources estimate a crowd of 500,000, and we can estimate probably 350,000 on the street, who knows how many silently supporting, against the entire current socio-economic order. Two insanely different threads developed that day. Everyone of course knows about the rioting. Truth be told, it seemed to me that the rioting of the previous day was more intense and widespread. But a battle raged for close to two hours in front of the converegence center, and there were reports of street fighting in other parts of the city as well. In the end, the police charged and attacked many differnt parts of the huge (and non- rioting) march when it was clear that the riot could not be contained quickly. Betwen 150 and 200 arrests were made during the march and hundred of injuries were sustained. Alongside the rage of activists and Genovese was the complacency of tens of thousands of borgious activists, Communists, unionists and GSF big wigs. Thousands of people treated the day as a celebration, instead of the day following the death of a comrade. The GSF speaker at the end of the march even spoke of "peace and victory." I certainly didnÚt see any of either. We had just finished a meeting about jail support and contacting Giuliani's family when the police raided the Indy Media Center. We were barricaded inside breifly before they forced there way in and forced everyone (including the injured people in the infirmary) to the floor. Where we were it was pretty mild. There were plainclothes, masked agents in riot helmets and armed with clubs on site. Presumably they were trying to ID people. AFter about 20 minutes on the floor, they left. We later heard that the presence inside the IMC of a lawyer and an Italian Senator (Communist i think) was probably what saved us a beating at least. The assualt across the street had already begun. There were hundreds of riot cops occupying the block, preventing entry or exit. Activists, medics, lawyers and GSF personnel (holders of city permit to use the school) were denied access to the school as the raid took place. We heard loud, horrible noises of people and objects. It is impossible to say how long it was before people came out, but in hindsight i believe the raid was incredibly quick. Stretcher after stretcher after stretcher brought out prone and bloodied bodies. Most were out cold, but the conscious ones all raised fists in defiance. A horrified scream went up as four cops ran out carrying a body bag. At least two more large objects were rushed out in sleeping bags or bedding material. Every witness instantly thought the police had killed again. There are as of yet no reports of deaths, but they definitely brought people out in bags. We hope that they were merely economizing with materials, as most people were asleep when the beatings began. The police eventually left, protected by old white men (GSF bigwigs) linking hands between the police and the enraged crowd. We entered the school with hundreds of others. If you can imagine a gory horror movie happening in real life, that was the inside of the school. The police made no effort to conceal, but rather left the evidence of their handiwork as a warning. Pools of fresh blood-a half dozen on each of the five floors, battered doors and walls, beams and chairs drenched in blood. Bloody handprints streaked acorss walls. Each stairwell had blood dribbled and streaked all down them-suggesting people were dragged down them. You could feel the fear and desperation, especially in tiny closets and bathroom stalls were lone individuals had constructed makeshift barricades and waited for the doors and walls to be torn down around them. Not a single inch of the school was left unchecked for hiding or sleepng people, though a t least a dozen made it out of windows. I spoke with an older man who managed to make it out by escorting one of the first strechers that was allowed in. He said as soon as the police entered, every one on the first floor laid on the ground with their hands up. Without a word from police or protestors, the beatings began in earnest. He described as many as ten cops pummeling each person, and said that not a single one was spared. He also said that at some point there was an argument over whether the beatings had progressed far enough. The argument was won by the more zealous and enthusiastic sadists. The media is reporting 93 arrests and 61 hospitalizations from the school. The most reliable breakdown we have seen is as follows: 41 Germans, 15 Italians, 13 Spanish, 6 English, 4 Swedes, 3 Poles, 3 Swiss, 3 US, 2 Canadians, 1 Turk and 1 from New Zealand.
We were in Firenze (Florence) yesterday (7/25) where a last-minute solidarity demonstration drew close to 10,000. We are all trying our best to assimilate these experiences and do something constructive. Most of all, I am trying to remember that 350,000 people on the streets of Genova means that millions if not billions are ready to bring the whole fucking thing down and build something better. The first big protest against the G8 only happened 5 years agao, the first big one against global capitalism per se two years ago. We're moving fast and learning all the time. Speaking of moving, I've got to now. Spread this as far as you can... I know first-hand accounts in English are in short supply.