Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Genova 20 luglio 2001

Since I’ve lived here, Italy has hosted 3 G8 summits; 1993 in Naples, 2001 in my city of Genoa and 2009 in L’Aquila. Britain was represented by John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the USA by Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barak Obama, Italy all three times by Silvio Berlusconi !!!

If you have the patience, read through to the end and watch the video links. What happened at Genoa 10 years ago this week was condemned in a report by Amnesty International as

The most serious suspension of fundamental rights in a Western country since the end of the second World War’

The week preceding the summit, I had been working as a volunteer translator and interpreter at the Genoa Social Forum media centre. The GSF was an umbrella group encompassing most of the anti G8 ecological, political, social and religious associations taking part in the demonstrations. The media centre was the base for the hundreds of independent journalists who had come from all around the world to follow the events.

The city itself was a ghost town. Berlusconi had encouraged people to leave Genoa for the weekend. At the time it seemed the logical thing to do for many. The centre itself was off limits, ‘protected’ by an immense iron grid, the streets were literally swarming with extra police and tanks which had been drafted in and the climate of tension and fear increased every time a politician opened his mouth. Almost as though they wanted something to happen you could say.

Yet in the surreal atmosphere people continued to arrive from all over Italy and way beyond to take part in the demonstrations. To coincide with the three days of summit, three days of civil ‘protests’ had been organized.

After a sunny, successful demonstration the first day with officially 50,000 people taking part, euphoria was high. I remember that Berlusconi had warned people not to hang their washing out of their windows during the days of the summit as it gave a bad impression to the international press. But protestors shouted up at the windows as the procession passed through the streets ‘Fuori le mutande’ (get your knickers out!) and old Genovese women who were still stay in town gleefully waved their Bridget Joneses down at the singing crowd happy with their own protest. Everyone was tired but happy at the end of that first day… no one able to imagine what was to come the next.

The first sign that something was amiss were reports the next morning that small groups, dressed in black, were destroying the city. At the time I lived in an area of the city which bordered the ‘zona rossa’, the no go zone. They were talking about my street on TV! Me and the friend who was with me ran down the 5 flights to the street below and were horrified to see the first acts of violence of the day. Amidst the burning cars and general debris I saw two dark, hooded figures (later I discovered they were known as Black Block)  smashing the window of a bank. Other nonplussed observers gaped at them in disbelief. These scenes soon became ordinary compared to what we saw happening further along the road. Trying not to breathe in the smoke and the tear gas we approached the mass of people ahead of us. The helicopters which had been circling the skies for days began firing the stinking gas at us and we saw people run screaming and bleeding from the masses. A massive police attack was taking place on unarmed peaceful protestors. We ran too.. and that time managed to escape unharmed. http://youtu.be/5k-KaQp4cNk 

What had actually happened was that the peaceful, authorised demonstration had been blocked and brutally attacked by the police whilst the Black Block, who were the ones actually destroying the city, were left undisturbed to carry on, (almost giving an excuse to the police to carry out the attacks. Vary rarely people take the time to distinguish the violent from the protestors, especially, as in this case, when their city was being burned.)

The police brutality continued. 
The day ended tragically with the assassination of a 23 year old protestor, Carlo Giuliani.

The day after the urban warfare became a war.