Blast from the Past

It’s good to read in tehgraun that “some of Italy’s most senior police officers have been given jail sentences of up to five years for what the prosecution called a “terrible” attack on demonstrators at the 2001 G8 meeting in Genoa and an attempted cover-up”, though sad also to read that, as with so many criminal trials with political ramifications in Italy, statutes of limitations mean that jail sentences are unlikely to be served.

Someone who may very well be unhappy with these verdicts is Tony Blair. British readers may remember what his spokesman said at the time, when reports of police brutality were beginning to circulate: “The Italian police had a difficult job to do. The prime minister believes that they did that job.”

Over the fold is a bit of eye-witness testimony of the events in question, from my friend Uri Gordon, an Israeli anarchist and G8 protester, which I was privileged enough to be able to publish nine years ago in The Voice of the Turtle:

Then, on Saturday night, on the pretext of looking for the people who had caused the violence, the police come outside the media centre where I am. This is the headquarters of the mainstream, non-violent NGO’s in the Genoa Social Forum. Certain that they’re about to raid the building, I run up to help barricade the top floor, trying to buy time to get rid of sensitive material. I get cut off, the barricade has already closed. I climb to the roof, and see them entering the school opposite the center. They start smashing people up, screams and shouts all over the place. And then they’re in our building. I try to get back down and almost run straight into the hands of the police. I turn around and escape back up, I still don’t know how they didn’t see me. The roof is empty now, and I find a niche to hide in, some kind of a store-room that has a window off the roof. The police are now all over the building, and I later hear that all the people had to stand with hands against the walls of the halls. Police gathered all journalists, and then searched the rooms. They confiscated mini discs, digital cameras, and “weapons” — kitchen and swiss army knives.

I spent the longest thirty minutes of my life in that enclave, certain that if I were found I’d be killed. I just breathed, avoided the helicopter searchlights and waited for it to pass. At the end it was over — there were activists on the roof and I knew the police had gone. I step out, and see hundreds of police down the street, and ambulances coming in to clear the carnage at the opposite school. People are screaming “Assassini!” and “We won’t forget”. They had beaten up everyone to the extent that most of the people could not walk out and had to be carried in stretchers out of the school. I don’t know how many people were badly injured because we lost count of the amount of stretchers carried out of the school, but they brought about thirty ambulances for the injured people. The police also brought at least one body bag outside, maybe two, and at the time we thought there might be more people dead.

There are, though, still three people in a coma from that attack. Everybody was either arrested or taken to hospital. According to the testimony of one person who could escape before being arrested, people were lying on the floor saying “No violence” when the police broke into the first floor where he was, and they battered people so badly that one of the officers had to intervene to stop the massacre. When the police are gone I go inside the school — I’ve only seen worse in bus-bombings in Israel. There are pools of blood on the floor, windows smashed by people trying to escape in vain, a plank of wood with nails covered with blood lying next to a corner with big patches of blood on the walls.

That night all Israelis decide to leave. I help one of the key organisers write a call for solidarity which goes into email lists around the world, but when I’m done one or two people have left without me. I’m on the first floor now, and someone shouts that the police are raiding again. I throw my bag and sleeping bag out the window, onto a bush, and jump out after them. Jumping over a few fences I make it out, and run like hell to the east. I think I ran for at least half an hour, and made it to a minor station on the coast. There I get on the first train I can find, and end up in Florence. I do some emails, trying to make sure the others are OK, find a youth hostel, take my first shower in a week and get into bed. I didn’t fall asleep — I fell unconscious.

One thought on “Blast from the Past”

  1. As I recall Blair referred to the protests as “an anarchist travelling circus”.

    At least the Italians managed some convictions. Is anybody, in re: the killing of Mr Tomlinson, actually expecting any charges?

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