ITALY: Carabinieri, the dark-blue thugs

August 1, 2001


GENOA — The repression unleashed on those who protested against the G8 summit here was the fiercest at any such protest to date: one person, Carlo Giuliani, was murdered iin Genoa, another was killed in unknown circumstances at the border, 560 were injured, many seriously, 219 were arrested, some in their hospital beds. Some protesters have even been charged with attempted murder.

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi mobilised the full force of the state. Twenty thousand police, municipal police, carabinieri paramilitary police, finance cops, and even department of forest staff were mobilised. (But not the firefighters whose union refused, saying "we just put out fires, we don't attack protesters").

The police forces attacked, tear-gassed and beat up protesters indiscriminately. Every section of the protest, no matter how far away from the walled-in "red zone" or how placid, was attacked.

The cops had shields, batons, guns, tear gas, water cannons, army personnel vehicles. At most the protesters smashed up some windows.

While in custody, some were forced to stare at posters of the dictator Benito Mussolini, or shout "Viva il Duce!".

Even journalists did not escape. A Sunday Times photographer working undercover recounted in the paper's July 22 issue, "Two policeman dragged me along the ground, shouted at me and then hit me some more. My cycling helmet disintegrated under the blows. Truncheons whacked my back, arms and shins."

There is considerable evidence that police provocateurs infiltrated the anarchist Black Bloc, seeking to cause as much mayhem as possible. Sometimes the provocateurs were even escorted around town by police.

Father Don Vitaliano, a radical priest, said that he saw some dressed as Black Bloc-ers come out of a police van and talk quite easily with police.

Rifundazione Comunista senator Gigi Malabarba, said "I saw with my own eyes some people dressed as Black Bloc come out of the police station and speak to the poice in freindly terms in French, German and English", suggesting they may have come from the secret services of these other countries.

The repression didn't stop even when the protests did.

When night fell on July 21, after the huge march through the city, thousands streamed back to the Stadio Carlini, the staging post for the July 20 civil disobedience bloc. Demonstrators thought that was the end: drink some wine, get some sleep.

At 12.30pm, pandemonium broke out: loudspeakers shrieking, "Everyone come to the front, pack your bags, get ready to leave".

A protest leader explained that carabinieri had just attacked the offices of the Indy Media Centre and the Genoa Social Forum, as well as a school being used for accommodation across the street, gassing the buildings, breaking down doors, beating people up.

Fearing the Stadio Carlini might be next, the crowd marches out to find another, safer place to stay.

The next day, I survey the damage to the IMC. One eyewitness, Michael Gieser, from a Belgian development agency, his face puffed up and band-aids covering his lips, tells me: "I was sleeping at the school then suddenly over 50 riot police burst in and attacked about 100 sleeping protesters."

"Protesters lay on the floor, surrendering. Many were hit while on the floor, many hospitalised. Riot cops then ran up to the first floor."

On the first floor, there was broken glass everywhere and pools of dried-up blood: I count maybe as many as 15.

Genoa Social Forum spokesperson Vittorio Agnoletto later described it as "an act of a South American dictatorship."

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