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Genoa mechanically recounted

Return to the Same City

In the city, silence has replaced the tanks, but to the same effect. Paco Ignacio Tibo

Despite misgivings I succumbed to the temptation to return to Genoa last weekend for the anniversary of Carlo Giuliani's death and the actions against the G8.

1. Context In the midst, and aftermath, of last year's events a deep fissure emerged between the majority of groups around the Genoa Social Forum and anarchist and autonomist groups. Ostensibly there were multiple reasons for the rupture: relations with the institutions, the use of violence, attitudes towards the police. In many ways however thse tensions are simply reflective of the difficulties inherent in the attempt to reorganise the political topography - collaboration between groups defining themselves in terms of direct action and those who seem uncertain as to whether to cultivate some sort of 'respectability' by keeping their distance or to attempt to exert hegemony over it.

The attempt to instrumentalise the Social Forums as a new political form hit a serious obstace in May when they received crappy results in the local elections. The increasing involvement of mainstream parties in the social forum process - as evidenced by the presence of three of the candidates for thids years presidential election in France in Porto Allegre - has intensified this sense of unease amongst the more determinedly extraparliamentary faction.

2. Piazza Alimonda The train arrived in Genova Brignole station shortly before four and we made our way to Piazza Alimonda, walking the street from Piazza Verdi where a year before the riots had raged. A huge crowd thronged the route and the Piazza was packed with people. Diversion was provided by some crap poetry and a band playing a classical take of the U2 dirge 'Sunday Bloody Sunday.' Someone had forgotten that the scumbag Bono had been inside embracing mass murderers and crooks like Pushkin and Berlusconi during the events being commemorated.

People sat around the spot where Carlo Giulianin was shot, and deposited momentoes. The fence nearby had been transformed into a sort of shrine, and generally there was a sense of secular ritual about the place. His father spoke, as did the leftist priest from Campagnia, Don Vitaliano. All over the square hung banners, from Carlo's frineds, from the Social centre Pinelli in Genoa, from all over Italy. At 5.27 the sirens of the port sounded to mark the moment of the shotting and dozens of balloons were released from the square

Two demonstrations were scheduled. Autonomists from the social centre Inmensa organised one, supported by some social centres and a few anarchist groups. Departing from nearby Brignole station they made their way to Marassi Prison, evoking the symbolic power of last years assault on sam by the 'black block'. Meanwhile the GSF-promoted route parted from Piazza Verdi in front of Brignole Station to wind its way through last year's red zone to Porto Anticho.

3. GSF, Disobeddienti and (most of the) Anarchists The main corteo was organised by the GSF, regrouping also the Disobeddienti, Rifondazione Communista and a gamut of other leftist goups. Seperate actions and corteges converged with this demo, including a large anarchist presence (numbering several thousand) and the various grassroots trade unions: COBAS, Cub, Slai-Cobas - about a hundred thousand people in total, far exceeding the numbers anticipated. With the exception of a small incident outside a far-right bookshop protected by a squad of forty or so cops from the Polizia di Stato who were egged and insulted (the Carabinieri kept a low profile and were concealed in streets away from the demo-route out of apprehension that their presence would trigger confrontations), the demonstration was pedestrian in every sense, and underlined the operational limitations implicit in collaboration with old leftist groups and mainstream NGOs, many of whose adherents behave like zombies. But to see the old town of Genoa at last was a pleasure, as it had been barricaded off behind the fences of the red zone last year. The city is a warren of extermely narrow alleys ('carruggi' in Italian) built on a hill, with six or seven floors to each building. At Porto Anticho, the demo was met by Sergio Cofferati, leader of the huge CGIL trade union and principal protagnist in the battle to retain the workers rights known as Article 18.

This year the Disobeddienti paraded without shields or body-protection, preferring to dance instead behind a large sound system which agthered several thousand in its wake.

4. Social Centre Inmensa and the Autonomi From the beginning Inmensa had severely criticised the Genoa Social Forum and after the demonstrations refused to co-operate on any further political actions. This largely derived from the GSFs complaints that the Police had failed to prevent violent demonstartors from entering the country from overseas, and their general attempts to recuperate political legitimacy by scapegoating more radical groups.

Their demo mustered just less than a thousand participants (according to the Secolo XIX, the local Genoa paper trusworthy for its estimates). In recent weeks the media fingered this group as posing the threat of renewed street disturbances, in contraposition to the GSF/Disobeddienti who were characterised as 'goodies'. Thus they were hemmed in by riot police all along their route. With some difficulty, and indirect negotiation they were able to reach the prison, where detainees had made a banner in memory of Carlo Giuliani, and chanted slogans. On route there were various incidents where stones and bottles were thrown leading to some scenes of discord between anarchists and communists. There were also some brief charges by the police at the end, but nothing serious.

5.Direct Actions As already noted there was a paucity of direct action during the demonstrations although two symbolic actions were carried out by the Disobeddienti and the Anarchist Coordination of Liguria respectively. The former occupied the Diaz school - scene of last years search and destroyraid by the cops which left 62 injured of the 91 inside- on thursday evening. Meanwhile, the anarchists took the headquarters of the Mediterranean Water and Gas Company offices on saturday morning in protest against the privatisation of natural resources and particularly the role of the IMF/World Bank in this regard. Both occupations finished without conflict with the authorities.

Returning from Genoa, I found myself overcome by a certain dejection despite the large mobilisation. Perhaps because of the absence of a sense of unbounded potential that characterised the experience last year. Perhaps because the politcal landscape has changed substantially in the meantime and the only response appears to be to take shelter beneath leftist shibboleths. Perhaps because the memory of the extreme vilolence and terror of those days needs catharsis. Currently ninety police officers and four hundred protesters remian under judicial investigation, but Italian justice is shambolic and slow-moving. Further isclosures about abuses in the lager Bolzanetto continue to leak out through the press, specifically in relation to the complicity and active involvement of some of the prison medical staff. New concerns have arisen about the long-term effects that the CS gas will have not only on those against whom it was employed, but also on the residents of the city. This year howver Genoa seemd more the scene for ideological slight of hand and posturing rather than ensuring an adequate substantive response on the level of the social movement.

With the polarisation of the debate between violence and non-violence the space for imaginative direct action appears to have been shut down.In addition both radical and moderate wings have opted for closure vis a vis one another as opposed to seeking innovative routes out of the impasse. My own guess is any further progress will be determined by the ongoing external social reconfiguration more generally rather than through internal movement dialogue.


There follows a statement from the Social Centre Pinelli whom many will remeber for the organisational role and pot-demonstration prisoner support they carried out last year. Pinelli was in fact badly damaged in a fascist arson attack last september (on the same night as the memorial to Carlo Giuliani on Piazza Alimonda was vandalised). The good news is that they have been able to repair the damage and reopened to the public last month.


The Disgust we Feel

We spent the day of Saturday the 20th in Piazza Alimonda not in a mood of festivity but of rage; we decided to move towards the city, seeing as we hadn't signed up to any of the initiatives (which isn't to say that we don't have a position). Thus we arrived in Piazza Verdi where we found lots of people dancing to the music blasted out of scores of trucks, smiley people, happy, in short a party, and so we asked one another "What the hell have they to celebrate?" Then a voice from a microphone shouted about victory, recalling last july and Carlo Giuliani, at which point our disgust reached a new dimension. We tried to understand what victory they were talking about and the answer given was:"......but can't you see how many we are, all together, all united, look around you"... so we took the advice and looked around us but what we saw transforemd our disgust into vomit: flags of the Italian Communists, Communist Refoundation, CGIL, Greens and Deomcratic Left.

Fucking hell they were shouting about victory and marching with Salvi and Violante (1), yep, those of the camps for immigrants, of the war in Kosovo, of the Global Forum in Naples, friends of the Americans, those that organised the G8 and then oppose it, those that wanted to take Article 18 from others first, those of the short term labour contracts, those who make agreements with Fini and Berlusconi, those who are accomplices in the murder of Carlo. We cannot march with these people because they are our enemies, they are the ones that we oppose, they're the ones that take away the air we breathe. So why shout about victory, perhaps because these individuals are a minority amongst the 100,000? Fine then, we want to know where are these 100,000 when comrades are arrested and tortured, where are these 100,000 when the social centres are evicted or burnt by fascists (2), where are these 100,000 when immigrants are beaten up, discriminated against, locked up i camps, where were the 100,000 when the neo-nazis of Forza Nuova turned up to annul the 30 June 1960 (3) or when they make meetings all over Italy, we could go on forever...?

At a certain point arrived news (which later turned out to be false) that the cops were charging the demo under the jail, yes that of "horrible and nasty" to be isolated and kept far away from the festivities, so we spoke with a few people to get together a group and go there but the answer was:"that's their problem as they were looking for it." No, this we really can't accept, we can never legitimate the fascist and repressive actions of the state by the hand of the police. So we moved on our own, but before reaching the demo we met some lads at Brignole who weren't able to get through to join the demo by the Disobeddienti, the cops and carabinieri had created an imaginary line, a red zone around the demo of 100,000 and they didn't let anyone through, not even the genovese who had to go home, how disgusting, last year the red zone was used to defend eight pieces of shit and this year it defended the demo of the social forum, of the disobeddienti, of the political parties and all their lot while they danced, protecting them from infiltration by the 'violent', for fear that some mayhem might break out, the same logic that was used to legitimise the red zone of last July. Meanwhile the multicoloured dancing demo of 100,000 consented to this shit. We stopped to help people who needed to get through, we began to insult the military who were impeding us from walking, who illegally deprived us of our rights, but they continued to repeat no one not from here can pass, a girl from Pinelli then showed her identity card and demonstrated that to go home she necessarily had to go by here - 'not home, go there later' (maybe this year you ned a pass to access the red zone where a 100,000 parade happily), a girl sick with aids wasn't allowed through to get home, so she took a syringe from her purse and went to stick it in her veins, quickly the carabinieri moved their asses and let her through. The cops were afraid of the sick. The verbal conflict went on another while and as demonstrators continued to arrive who needed to get through, the tension grew, that was what they wanted. A woman from Pinelli took a cellphone and made as if to call the lawyer, there you have the magic word, as soon as they heard lawyer the cordon opened and they let us pass and all while the 100,000 were dancing protected by hundreds of cops in riot uniform. At last we could go towards the demo (at Marassi), it was all calm at the prison where the detainees were demonstrating with the demonstrators. The demo turned back to go towrds the station at Brignole for the comrades who needed to take the train to return home, but in Piazza Gusti they were stopped by the cops again, 'you can't get by here', same logic as before, negotiations began which unfolded in great calm, after a while they let us through, surrounded naturally on every side, but in front of the station something absurd happened, a police cordon posted on one side of the demo began to run towards twenty demonstrators who in turn escaped by taking Via San Vicenzo, police and cc began an absurd pursuit, charging the void, marking someone who had done nothing, absolutely nothing, and who is today identified in the newspapers as one of the 'violent ones', merely becasue they escaped from the madeness of Cops & Co., two lads were stoppped and identified and no-one knows why, and while all this was happening these 100,000 danced happily at Porto Antico.

The headlines in the newspapers today descibed a lovely day, a peaceful demo defended by the police to prevent its being ruined by the 'violent ones.' The police chief of Genboa Oscar Fiorolli praises the stewards of the demo because, in his words, it was perfect and helped them to isolate the violent, what crap. Fiorelli is practically described as a mythical figure, but no-one says that in order to accomplish this he stripped the right to walk freely, to live freely, to hundreds of Genovese and others. Our observation is on alone, we cannot accept all this, thus so long as the movement remains like this, we will walk alone, as we did on saturday. Because we do not want a world that is better than this, but rather one which is totally different. We do not want to fall into the distinction between violence and non-violence, for us the only vilolence is that of the murderous and exploitative state, and its servants be they in uniform or double breasted suits.

The lads and lasses of CSOA Pinelli, Genova.

Notes (added by translator)

(1) Violante is Parliamentary leader of the Democrats of the Left in the Italian Parliament(DS). Salvi is a former minister for Labour in the D'Alema DS government.

(2) In September 2001 CSOA Pineòlli was attacked with Molotov Cocktails presumably as a result of their high-profile activity during the demonstartions against the G8.

(3) On 30 June 1960 Genoa erupted into riots as workers -including the city's politically notorious dockers - and former partisans took to the street to prevent a rally by Mussolini's old political movement the MSI. Anti-fascist forces fought the police and successfully impeded the meeting.For a little more info read this from the Guardian.

The following is extracted from a post to Indymedia UK on the CS gas and legal developments.

..........the city of Genoa admits that 9000 cs gas canisters were launced at the public durin the three days. This stuff burns the lungs and skin and my provke ashma like symptoms in people, it is not tear gas. CS gas is internationaly banned by convention for use in war by soldiers but it was used in Genoa on the G8 marchers. The stuff may even cause genetic dammage.

In the book "non lavate questo sangue" by Concita De Gregorio, published by Editori Laterz(in Italian)Dr. Massimo Costantini, of the Center of Epidemiology of Genoa and the National Institute for the Reasearch on cancer is quoted:"This tear gas have something inside them. An asid, something that swells up the throat and closes it, one cannot breath and spasms start. They have something that makes one vomit. They don't make you cry, this tear gas: it blinds and makes the stomac empty itsself. It is a cloud that berns and smells like sulfer. They throw them from the helicopters, in clusters. Or they shoot them, and you hear the report like that of a gun, but more mutted. Thud. They arrive in barrages:fifteen or twenty at a time, then the asid clowd arrives".

Also, 93 people inside the Diaz school were arresed, and 93 filed chareges of assault. 60 did go straight to the hospital. In the Italian newspapers recently the asistant prosecutor got a confession that the two molotov coctails that were the only clear weapons "found" and upon witch charges were brought, these two molotovs were planted by Police. This is public knoledge. There was and still is no justification for the two hours of beating on those young people sleeping in side the Diaz school. Among the injuries reported a punctured lung from broken ribs and bleeding spleens and broken teeth and limbs. The city of Genoa had given the school to the propestors. They were and are responsable for the safety and well being of these guests of the city and not just the heads of state, in my opinion.