GENOA G8: Neither forgotten nor forgiven.
NOVEMBER 18, 2007
Tens of thousands of Italians traveled to Genoa in November to remind their government and the world that the
atrocities committed against anti-G8 protesters six years ago are neither forgotten nor forgiven.
Their demonstration followed the astonishing decision by the Italian judiciary to toss the criminal code (including an
old fascist law) at the arrested â€˜trouble makersâ€™ now awaiting trial while exonerating or promoting senior police
officers in charge of riot police units that were shown on films brutally beating unarmed protesters, men and women.
This bizarre twist of justice is not unusual today as neo-liberal capitalism (the marriage between government and
corporatism) frequently resorts to fascist methods to beat up protesters demonstrating against the neo-liberal credo of â
€˜globalizationâ€™ which is basically the privatization of all our natural and intellectual resources, our social services,
public land, education and communication.
Anti-globalization activists protest against the results of a doctrine that was spawned and perfected by
the so-called Chicago Boys, the disciples of the late Milton Friedman. This doctrine of total private enterprise
has concentrated global wealth in the hands of a few leaving the great multitude of people marginalized and
deprived of rights gained in the labor and political struggles during the era of the welfare state.
Conscious of the potential revolt by this impoverished and disenfranchised multitude neo-liberal capitalism tries to
stifle protest through exemplary and excessive punishment, invasive surveillance and the fear of terrorism, a terrorism
fomented by the systemâ€™s own â€˜anti-terrorist wars.â€™ All of these â€˜warsâ€™ have proved to be profitable
A good example is Italy which resurrected a law introduced by the fascists nearly eighty years ago (Article 419 of
the Penal Code) and never applied in post-war years because it was originally designed against foreign troops. Under this
law the twenty-five people arrested in Genoa in 2001 are charged with â€œdevastation and pillage,â€� a crime that
carries up to sixteen years in jail.
The prosecution also demands a combined fine of 2.6 million euro as compensation -- not for structural damage
to Genoa but the damage to â€œthe image of the city.â€�
These harsh charges may seem preposterous but are intended to intimidate similar protests against the club of the
rich countries, embodied in the G8 summit meetings which many experts consider no more then amiable get-togethers
among world leaders to remove obstacles in the way of profit-making schemes by their corporate friends and financiers.
(Italy is also nervous because it will host the G8 summit next year, this time on the less accessible island of
No doubt the forgiveness for police transgressions or excesses has virtually signaled official approval for the return
of the kind of â€˜hit-squadâ€™ tactics employed by fascism to eliminate opposition.
During the Rostock G8 in Germany this year police and political spokespersons issued false figures claiming â€˜a
thousandâ€™ were injured in clashes (when in fact only 24 were admitted and released from the local hospital) so creating
a media outrage against the protesters that could have justified the tough reaction of German security forces who,
however, did not resort to excesses.
In Italy the police chief in charge of G8 security in 2001 has since been promoted.
Here are some of the facts about Genoa that prompted the November protest march, a symbolic gesture â€˜to
rememberâ€™ the outrages six years ago:
At the Diaz school sleeping demonstrators, journalists and health workers were beaten up so badly by invading
riot police the night after the demonstrations that 62 of the 93 sleepers were badly injured and 21 of them, all soaked in
blood, had to be carried out on stretchers.
One investigating magistrate confessed at a subsequent inquiry the police planted Molotov cocktails in the school
to justify their brutality and that he saw blood clots splattered on the school floor which he thought (wrongly) to be a
German womanâ€™s brain. Other witnesses said walls and floors were covered in puddles of blood.
For the last six years Italian authorities have played a cat-and-mouse game refusing to divulge the chain of
command that sent police truncheon-charging into crowds of peaceful demonstrators during the march of 300,000 anti-G8
protesters on July 20, 2001.
The police assaults beat many protesters bloody but left untouched the so-called Black Block of protesters, the
violent youths burning and wrecking shops and cars.
Demonstrators have given evidence they saw Black Block members walking through police cordons unhindered,
indicating some of the trouble makers may have been agents provocateurs creating on purpose the climate of violence that
would justify the forces of law and order to launch their vicious retaliation.
Other evidence pointed to the presence in Genoa of an unusual large number of legislators from the neo-fascist
Alleanza Nacionale (AN) party including their leader Gianfranco Fini who was Italyâ€™s Vice-Premier at that time because
his party was a member of the former coalition government headed by media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi.
The rise and prominence of the neo-fascists since 2001 has been one of the most startling phenomena in Italy a
country that changed sides during World War II but has never managed to sanitize itself of the fascist legacy of Benito
Today hardly a talk-show is aired on which the neo-fascist party is not represented, usually with the kind of
shouting and crude reactionary rhetoric so chilling in pre-World War II documentaries.
The reaction of Italian dailies to the beatings at the Diaz school in 2001 was equally weird: The consensus was that
the school had sheltered â€˜international terrorists.â€™
One of those presumed â€˜terroristsâ€™ was Suna Gol, a Turkish political refugee and journalist. She had been
granted asylum in Switzerland and came to the G8 demos where she slept in the Diaz School. She was brutally beaten and
later identified by the dailies as â€˜a dangerous Turkish terrorist.â€™
Today she still suffers from a bad leg as the result of the beatings. Her story recalls episodes from the famous film â
€˜Juliaâ€� starring Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda, a passionate story of the Nazi era in Germany.
Suna Gol told the media: â€œThe police broke into the school and started to beat us up. They broke the jaw of a girl
sleeping next to me on the stairway. They broke the nose and the mouth of a man called Benjamin and another youth they
beat unconscious. They beat up Lena after kicking her down the stairs. As a result her lungs have been permanently
damaged and she had to be operated.
â€œThey took me by the hair and pulled me along the floor kicking me and beating me with their fists. They smashed
my head (against the wall) and I had seven stitches in hospital. I couldnâ€™t move. When I was carried out of the Diaz
school I left behind a battle field, everywhere blood and crying.
â€œPeople were being carried away in ambulances, half conscious and the police still beat them. The hospital was
under guard and only on the second day was I allowed to go to the bathroom. Later they told me I was allowed to wash
myself because a parliamentarian had arrived.
â€œFrom the hospital I was taken to Bolzaneto Barracks where a policeman raised his hand and cried: â€˜Heil Hitler.
â€œWe were kicked and beaten there again. We were forced to stand with our hands against the wall for hours. We
women were called everything. One girl was ordered to strip in front of the policemen. When we asked to call our family, or
lawyers or embassies they just laughed in our face. I was put in an isolation cell. I asked for the ring they had taken from
me but they said they couldnâ€™t find it. Many had their cash and jewelry taken from them. On the 25th (of July, 2001)
there was a trial. I was allowed to leave. They told me I would be sent to Turkey even though I had a Swiss document
saying I could not be send to Turkey. Luckily my lawyer was able to block the extradition. I was told I could not enter Italy
for five years.â€�
Though the police chiefs have been promoted or transferred some 46 police officers identified as among those who
systematically smashed sleeping protesters have yet to be found guilty or innocent. Their â€˜showâ€™ trial keeps being
postponed and interrupted by technicalities. The six-year delay has prompted a joke that the verdicts might come in â
Earlier this year police had claimed 59 of the foreigners arrested and allegedly beaten up had signed waivers for
assistance from their embassies, had waived the right to a phone call and to medical assistance - a preposterous claim.
An investigation has since found out the 59 forms had been signed by police themselves or by prisoners who claimed they
signed under the threat of more beatings.
During the G8 protests Carlo Giuliani, a student protester, was shot dead by a Carabiniere, a member of Italyâ
€™s paramilitary police. The shooter faced an inquiry which found he fired in self defense because the young student had
lifted a fire extinguisher and threatened to throw it at the jeep in which the shooter, armed with a pistol, had been riding
shotgun at the back.
The inquiry into the death of the student also heard evidence from a police radio tape during which a
policewoman cried: â€œI hope the lot die. Anyway one is already gone.â€�
Another police officer is heard boasting of â€˜heads burst open by truncheon blows.â€™
On November 17 this year fifty thousand people marched to protest against these unsolved cases of police violence. The
crowd marched peacefully through a Genoa, wisely deserted this time by police security forces.
And there were no violent incidents as the crowd and their banners demanded justice and a parliamentary inquiry into
episodes more consistent with the ugly face of fascism than a democratic society.
But both Italyâ€™s former center-right and current center-left governments have repeatedly rejected these perennial
calls for a parliamentary inquiry - perhaps fearing more embarrassing revelations.