Thursday, 21 July 2011

Genova 21 luglio 2001

Despite the violence and the death of the day before it was decided that the third demonstration would go ahead. The strategy, agreed by representatives of the various movements involved, was to isolate Black Block infiltrators by linking hands around groups of peaceful demonstrators. In doing so it would be clear to the police who was who and, if destruction of the city continued by the BB, in theory there would be no confusion.

200,000 people took part. Terrified by what had happened the day before but somehow still able to believe that there had been a ‘misunderstanding.’ Young families with children, old people with walking sticks, farmers, monks, people dressed in colourful carnival costumes, music, singing and dancing. 200,000 people convinced that they coul prove that their protest was peaceful! The day was hot and sunny, the route led down the wide palm lined Corso Italia right next to the sea… What could go wrong?

The story is long and painful. Here are some of my most vivid memories.

- The sudden deafening sound of police helicopters descending on the dense crowd and launching tear gas (later discovered to be an illegal toxic gas) right into the middle . The smell of it hung in the air for months afterwards.
- Screams as the police attack advanced against the people at the head of the procession and the ensuing panic as they turned back and tried to escape into the advancing crowd.
- Blood covered people lying at the side of the road and police massacring them with their truncheons (later, the photos showed that they used their truncheons the wrong way up so that the metal part would cause more damage)
- Doctors (easily identifiable by the official ‘red cross’ T-shirt they were wearing) with battered faces, covered in blood after having been attacked by the police. I later read about an ambulance stationed in a side road in case it was needed (!) People being treated by the surviving doctors were being dragged out of the ambulances by the police and beaten again.
- In an attempt to escape people were jumping over a pretty high wall which led down onto the beach… only to find that police dinghies came at them from the sea, again shooting toxic gas. There really was no escape.

One of my strongest sensations was that of a sort of primitive survival instinct. I’d never before been in a situation where I literally did need to ‘run for my life’.

One journalist said, “The Black Block was not the source of the problem in Genoa. The problem was state, police and Fascist violence. In Genoa we encountered a carefully orchestrated political campaign of state terrorism. The police planned to attack the march and by blaming the Black Block has effectively let the state off the hook.”

The third and last demonstration had been a complete massacre. Corso Italia was littered with wounded bodies and terrified people…

It ought to have been the end. The programmed ‘events’ of the G8 were over. But the police brutality wasn’t. Two of the biggest episodes of state violence were still to come.