Reports from the ground

Here are presented a number of reports from the ground on events leading up to and during the protests against the G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy. They have been largely gathering from alternative media sources. In contrast to the reporting in the mainstream media, which emphasise the violence of the protestors, these sources also report on violence and harassment by the police and plainclothes police units (like the Digo).

1. Report from indymedia, Italy:

20 July, 6.17 pm:

"Carlo Giuliani dies, killed by two shots in the middle of his face coming out of the gun of a policeman on a jeep. One of the 15,000 "controllers of the order" that were in the streets. The homicide was the conclusion of a day prepared for months. A day that had to see thousands of people demonstrating in lots of different ways. The demonstrations never started, police-forces charged even during the gatherings, even though no one had moved yet. This happened after different months of terrorist campaigns set up by authorities and media."

2. Report from the ground by Statewatch:

Italy - Searches against activists precede the G8 Summit in Genoa

In the lead up to the G8 meeting on 20-21 July in Genoa, law enforcement agencies have carried out extensive raids and searches against left-wing groups and social centres in Italy. Activists say that the tactics are designed to intimidate members of groups that are on the margins of the umbrella organisation 'Genova Social Forum' which has been negotiating with the authorities, and are therefore considered 'violent'. The government has been stressing the dichotomy between the treatment of 'non-violent' and 'violent' elements involved in opposition to the G-8, although the many raids and searches have failed to confirm the theory. The raids have often been conducted without a warrant under article 41 of Italy's anti-terrorist legislation, which allows searches without a warrant to be carried out in cases where weapons, explosives or ammunition are sought.

The situation was already tense in Italy following heavy-handed policing during demonstrations against the 'Global Forum' in Naples on 17 March, for which Amnesty International has called on the Italian government to establish an independent inquiry, the beating inflicted in May on an immigrants' demonstration in Rome on 17 May, and allegations of police violence against workers from the ILVA manufacturing plant protesting against its closure in Genoa in June.

On 4 July the homes of Luca Casarini, spokesman for the social centres of north-east Italy and Matteo Jade, two leading representatives of the 'Tute Bianche' (White Overalls) who adhering to the 'Genova Social Forum' were searched without a warrant on suspicion of possession of weapons and explosives.

On 10 July the Stalingrado, a squatted social centre in Crema (Lombardy) was evicted, and the house was subsequently destroyed on orders from its owner. Italian press agency Adnkronos also reported that Livia R., an activist from the 'Rete No Global' in Naples who helped to compile the self-defence manual for demonstrators at the 'Global Forum' demonstration held in Naples in March, had her house searched. This was only a few days after a police attack on 6 July on activists from the Officina 99 social centre in Naples who were protesting against the docking in Naples of the 'European Vision', a high-security cruiser ship which will host the leaders of the G8 countries, except for George Bush, during the summit. Bush will be staying on a US aircraft carrier.

On 12 July in Taranto, the houses of two activists were searched, and Fiorino Iantorno, a national representative for ATTAC, was visited by members of Digos (Italian police political section) and had his house searched without a warrant, as police claimed that they received an anonymous call claiming that he was in possession of bombs and weapons. Nothing was found during the search. An open letter was sent to the Taranto police chief following the search speaking of a 'serious unnecessary and instrumental provocation', condemning the 'criminalisation' of 'the varied world which is ready to move to Genoa to demonstrate its dissent against the G8 and its policies. The letter was backed by a number of organisations and collectives, including Slai Cobas (trade unionists), the ATTAC Promoting Committee in Taranto, the Network for Global Rights and the Rebel South Network.

As the summit approached, the searches carried out by Digos (plainclothes police units)and police agents intensified. Indymedia reports that on 15 July, five activists from Turin who were heading to participate in the Global Audio Project (coordinating some radio stations from the Italian protest movement) were stopped and searched in Genoa. They had to leave the city by midnight, receiving an order banning them from the city for three years. The next day, in Turin, the Askatasuna social centre in Turin was searched by the Turin Digos with a warrant dated 9 July to look for 'weapons, sticks, petrol bottles (bombs) bolts, objects to cause offences'. The motivation for the warrant was the explicit statement of the intent by its members on a social centres mailing list to break into the so-called 'red zone' which has been sectioned off in order to isolate those involved in the G8 summit from demonstrators. This intent is shared by a number of groups. The Alcova social centre was also searched, as were the houses of a number of Turin activists, including the five who were banned from Genoa.

El Paso occupato, a Turin social centre, claimed that searches conducted on 16 July also included the Villa occupata in Milan, and some activsts' houses, the houses of a number of anarchists in Bologna, the Stella Nera libertarian circle in La Spezia (Liguria) and two squatted houses in Rome. The 'Corriere della Sera' daily newspaper reported on 17 July that searches in Bologna, Turin and Milan resulted in six people being detained. One was kept under arrest and five more were charged, all of them in Bologna, in connection with a raid in a country house. The police reportedly found iron tubes, two catapults, a truncheon, two gas masks, four flick-knives, hundreds of iron nuts, twenty four-edged nails and fifteen 50 cm iron bars - much of which would not be unusual to find in a house in the countryside. The arrest was in connection with the possession of cannabis whereas the five persons charged are accused of membership of an organisation aimed at taking part in acts of terrorism and and aiming to subvert the democratic order. No arrests or charges were made in connection with raids in Turin and Milan.

Members of the Giorgiana Masi Internationalist Solidarity Caravan, offering support to refugees and victims of war (particularly in the Balkans), were also affected by searches, and two were arrested. They were charged with membership of a 'subversive association' in connection with attacks on party offices of the Democratici di Sinistra (DS, Democratic Left) during the bombing of Yugoslavia.

On 16 July a letter bomb was sent to the San Fruttuoso carabinieri station and exploded injuring a carabiniere, Stefano Sorri. Since then the number of bomb alerts has increased, and letter bombs were delivered on 18 July to news staff of Silvio Berlusconi's Rete 4 television channel and the Benetton headquarters in Treviso. A bomb consisting of two Molotov cocktails connected to a timer that had been placed in a suitcase outside the Carlini sports stadium which is hosting demonstrators was also defused by police on 16 July.

On 17 July, when a large number of activists arrived in Genoa, a number of their reception camps were searched in raids which started in the early morning. In the Carlini stadium, where the 'Civil Disobedience Block' has set up camp, a 30-minute search was conducted as demonstrators were allowed to accompany a small police team of four Digos officers and requested the presence of journalists and lawyers. Digos officers claimed that it was a check rather than a search, involving 100 police officers. Luca Casarin said 'Our actions and objects are in full view. They are just defensive objects against armed forces such as those which came today outside our gates.'

'Anarchist against the G8', an umbrella organisation for anarchist groups, claimed that nothing was confiscated during a search of the Sciorba sports grounds, where several demonstrators are based. The Pinelli anarchist centre, which is offering hospitality to demonstrators arriving from outside Genoa was also searched, and efforts by the police to confiscate gas masks and detain a German man were prevented by resistance and the presence of a lawyer. Some demonstrators had their documents checked. A German woman was arrested because the police deemed that she had reinforced her van with metal bars in order to break into the 'red zone' and four friends (three German, one Polish) were charged because they had objects 'to be used to carry out offences'. The police alleged that they had been identified in the past for violence at demonstrations.

The raids continued in social centres around Italy. In Padua, the houses of three communists and the Gramigna squatted people's centre were searched; in Florence, the Stella Nera (under article 41) and the 425 social centre were both searched; in Naples, the TNT social centre was also searched (on the basis of article 41) resulting in the confiscation of posters and placards.

On 18 July RAF (Resistenza Anti-Fascista, Anti-Fascist Resistance) reported that the sports ground in via dei Ciclamini where demonstrators from the 'Network for Global Rights' are staying was searched for over two hours, individuals had their documents checked and nothing was confiscated.

Three persons from the Paci Paciana social centre in Bergamo (Lombardy) were arrested in Genoa at 3am for resistance and causing injuries to a police officer. They released a statement claiming that they were stopped by a police flying squad, searched by a gun toting police officer who was issuing threats about what would happen in Genoa. When they asked him to wait for their lawyer or to produce a record of his search of the car, the statement says that he started punching and kicking one of them. They claimed that they did not resist, realising the possible consequences of doing so. Two more police cars arrived and six officers dismounted holding truncheons. They beat the man on the head using the handle of their truncheons after handcuffing him, the statement continues, before beating a second man, while the police officer who was responsible for the original attack rips up his own shirt and is taken to the A&E (with a twisted ankle and damaged fingers). They received an immediate trial at 12.30, and were released at 6.30 pm after the judge, Dr. Nava ordered their release.

3. Report from the ground by Statewatch: Clashes on the Italian borders and blocks on free movement

Clashes on the Italian borders and blocks on free movement

ANSA, the Italian press agency, stated on 13 July that Italy's Interior Minister Claudio Scajola told Italy's EU partners that the Schengen Agreement on free movement would be suspended from 14 July to 21 July 2001 for the G8 summit in Genoa. On 18 July, La Repubblica reported Scajola's statement in the Chamber of Deputies (lower house of parliament) that 686 persons had been refused entry so far. The final number is expected to be considerably higher, particularly after 135 Greeks were sent back to Greece on the ferry on which they arrived on 19 July.

Communiques from the La Scintilla collective in Ventimiglia on the Italian-French border have been reporting since 12 July that the border has become a militarised zone in the lead up to the G8 summit in Genoa. Italian police and 1,000 French policemen from the CRS are patrolling the border. The market scheduled for Friday 19 July has been cancelled, shops were ordered to close and, ominously, Bordighera hospital is being emptied. A demonstration by Italian and French activists was organised on 14 July to denounce the militarisation of the border. Human chains formed by people holding hands on both sides of the border aimed to symbolically uphold the right to free movement and the right to demonstrate.

On the Italian-Swiss border at Chiasso (Switzerland)/Como (Italy), a number of incidents have been reported, including clashes with the police on 16 July. The first person who was expelled on the border was an Austrian on 11 July who was reportedly on a list of 'undesirables'.

KEP Autonomous Collective from Como reported on 14 July that thirty cyclists from Switzerland and Germany who were looking to join the anti-G8 bicycle caravan leaving from Lecco on the following day reached the border. Italian border police checked their documents and kept them in customs for hours before returning the documents, denying three cyclists entry. They were considered 'undesirable' for public order reasons. The cyclists returned to Chiasso and occupied an unused municipal building to wait for the arrival of more demonstrators.

Reports from KEP and Il Molino social centre in Lugano (Switzerland) say that on 16 July a train arriving from Switzerland carrying 100 activists from Germany was stopped at the border, and four persons were taken to Mendrisio police station. Two hundred persons, those who got off the train, and others from KEP and Il Molino reportedly occupied the tracks to block the train. The Swiss riot police charged demonstrators for about an hour before they moved from the tracks to the border station, blocking traffic on the road. Activists on the Italian side of the border were not allowed to cross over into Switzerland because the Swiss border police decided that they, too, were 'undesirables'. They blocked the Italian side of the border. There were further police charges including the use of teargas, and demonstrators exchanged fire by throwing rocks. Dozens were reportedly injured, including a Swiss regional councillor who tried to divide the riot police and demonstrators. The four persons from the train who had been held were eventually released.

On the morning of 19 July the 'Blu Star 2' ferry coming from Greece with 1,500 demonstrators loaded into eighteen buses on board docked in the port of Ancona. Three of the coaches, carrying 135 persons, were sent back to Greece in a mass expulsion on the same boat after clashes in which seven policemen and three demonstrators were reportedly injured. Italian newspaper 'Il Corriere della Sera' reported that the Ancona police chief claimed that 'We received detailed information and they have been sent back to Greece because they were considered dangerous for public order'. The Greek foreign minister, Panos Beglitis, criticised the actions of the Italian police saying 'We express our strong regret for the brutal behaviour of the Italian police'.

Italy also deported three British campaigners who had landed in Genoa's airport on 18 July, the Guardian reports. Richard Byrne, 29, from the anti-poverty World Development Movement, Julie Quinn, 20, a student, and John Harper, from Glasgow, were denied a lawyer after being placed in an immigration zone. Byrne said 'They told us that, as we were no longer officially on Italian soil, our access right to a lawyer didn't exist'. It appears that their names were supplied to Italian immigration officials because they had been arrested in February 2001 during an anti-Trident demonstration at the Faslane nval base in Scotland - only Mr Harper was charged with a public order offence.

see also report on attempt to stop train from UK

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