Genoa; Sunday, July 23
Organizers of the anti-G8 protest in Genoa say that 200,000 people came from all over Italy and Europe to join the mammoth demonstration yesterday. In contrast to Friday, the day seemed to be relatively peaceable…until the evening. At around 11 pm, while I and several media people were filing stories, the police barged into the Genoa Social Forum press center in search of “anarchists.”
“Prensa, prensa,” we shouted, our hands held high, as baton wielding carabinieri pushed us and commanded us to sit on the floor. We were captives for the next hour, but things were worse at the high school next door which served as temporary quarters for people coming from out of town. About 200 police in full riot gear crashed into the building, rounding up Nazi-style about twenty young people suspected of being anarchists.
Still things were less chaotic than the day before. I will never forget Friday.
The police van came careening down the Via Giovanni Tomaso Invrea, moving crazily from one side of the narrow street to the other in pursuit of protesters. I flattened myself against the wall, and it missed me by two feet. Another six inches and it would have mowed down the man in front of me. “Assassino, assassino,” people screamed as the vehicle stopped a few yards away. A bald carabinieri opened the door and glared at us.
Everything happened so quickly. Just twenty-five minutes before, at around 2:15 pm, a column of around 8,000-10,000 people, led by the famed specialists in civil disobedience the Tute Bianche, were marching down the Via Tolemaide, with marshalls using megaphones announcing, “This is a nonviolent march. We believe in nonviolence.” The goal of the marchers was to reach the twenty-foot wall of iron that the authorities had erected around the Group of Eight meeting site at the Piazza Ducale about two kilometers away.
They never reached the wall. At the foot of the hill, at the intersection with Via Corsino, carabinieri hidden in a small side street started firing tear gas in an unprovoked attack that scattered the advance ranks of the march where there were many reporters and television crews.
The Battle of Genoa had begun.
Throughout the next four hours, the battle unfolded in the narrow sidestreets and the small piazzas of the Corso Torino area, with the battle lines shifting constantly. The police would attack with teargas, vans and armored personnel carriers. The protesters would retreat, then come back with stones and bricks ripped from the pavement. Huge trash bins were turned over to serve as barricades. “Genova Libera! Genova Libera!” would erupt from the crowd everytime the police were forced back.
At 4:20 pm, I had my first glimpse of an injured man being carried away by the first aid personnel of the Tute Bianche. It was at around the same time that one person was shot dead by carabinieri in the same vicinity. Ambulance sirens blared constantly. Later I would find out that about 150 people had been injured during the day–about fifty of them being members of the media.