Statewatch News online: GENOA 19/21 July 2001

Support our work: become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.

GENOA 19/21 July 2001
An Italian view of "public order policing" Italian style

482 people injured
280 arrests
2,093 people turned back at the borders
Carlo Giuliani shot dead by police

Statewatch bulletin, vol 11 no 3/4, May-July 2001

It was thought that European public order policing had sunk to a new low after police opened fire on demonstrators in Gothenburg in June. However, it reached a new nadir in Genoa on 19-21 July when, during widespread demonstrations against the G8 summit, Italian police shot dead Carlo Giuliani. Claims by the Berlusconi government that it would guarantee the right of peaceful protest (as well as maintaining public order and security) were swept aside by practices on the ground. Clashes between the police and demonstrators resulted in 482 people receiving injuries (of whom 355 were protestors, 19 journalists and 108 policemen) and 280 arrests (105 from outside Italy); charges were brought against 230 persons. Forty-nine people were reported to be still in prison [in mid-August]. They have been charged with belonging to "criminal association aimed destruction and looting" (a charge which allows the use of legislation against organised crime) and in some cases of resisting a public official.

On 1 August Interior Minister Claudio Scajola survived a confidence vote in parliament. A parliamentary inquiry has been set up, and eight police investigations into the policing of the event have been ordered. Three have so far been submitted to parliament. These relate to a raid on two schools hosting protestors and the independent media centre, allegations of torture at the Bolzaneto prison complex and to the overall management of public order. Three police officials have been removed from their posts: Arnaldo La Barbera, head of Ucigos (special operations, antiterrorist central office); Ansoino Andreassi (deputy head of police); and Francesco Colucci (head of Genoa police). A carabiniere conscript, Mario Placanica, is under investigation for manslaughter for the death of Carlo Giuliani - the first person to die on a demonstration in Italy since Giorgiana Masi was shot by police in Rome in 1977.

Security deployment

As the number of demonstrators expected in Genoa grew in the weeks leading up to the summit, and the Genova Social Forum (GSF) umbrella organisation gave over 700 organisations a common voice, security preparations took shape. Concerns over violent protest and the protection of the G8 meeting, (including secret service rumours that Osama bin Laden would attempt to kill George Bush), resulted in unprecedented measures. Clashes during the EU summit in Gothenburg on 14-16 June and the World Economic Forum in Salzburg on 1-3 July also caused concern at the European level.

Security arrangements included the hiring of a luxury cruiser as residential quarters for the G8 leaders, (George Bush stayed on a US aircraft carrier). Six naval vessels were deployed to patrol the Porto Vecchio (Old Harbour) area, with the port closed to non-G8 activities, as was the airport and nearest train stations. Defences for the summit included batteries of ground-to-air Spada missiles deployed in the port and airport, 12-ft high barriers of barbed wire mesh strengthened with metal bars and concrete bases around the "red zone", and 18,000 law enforcement officials. These were drawn from:

- the national police (Genoa police, flying squads, riot police and the interior ministry-run Ucigos and SCO, Central Operative Service);

- the paramilitary carabinieri (6,300 officers, of whom 27% were conscripts, from the Genoa provincial command, corps trained in public order, flying squads and ROS, Reparto Operazioni Speciali, special operations, anti-terrorist & organised crime section);

- the prison service (GOM, Gruppo Operativo Mobile, prisons flying squad reporting to the justice ministry set up in 1997);

- and the Corpo Forestale (the Corps of Foresters, on horseback and on foot, replacing carabinieri on the streets after Giuliani was shot in the afternoon of 19 July).


Italy reinstated border controls by suspending provisions in the Schengen agreement from 14 to 21 July, as Austria had done for the World Economic Forum meeting in Salzburg on 1-3 July 2001. There were reports that German police on the Swiss border used a violent offenders database to prevent people from leaving the country. German lawyers argued that this was an infringement of the constitutional right to personal freedom. They are looking to file a test case against the police over the inclusion of two people on the database who were arrested or identified on peaceful demonstrations without charges being made against them.

On 23 July Interior Minister Scajola revealed that 2,093 people were refused entry into Italy. Some protestors, such as Britons Richard Byrne, John Harper and Julie Quinn, were refused entry and deported by Italian authorities on the basis of information supplied by police in the UK. The three had been arrested during anti-Trident demonstrations in Faslane naval base in Scotland, although only Harper was charged with a standard public order offence. They were denied access to lawyers, were held in a so-called "immigration zone" (or "sterile zone" in the words of the Italian embassy in London) where: "They told us that, as we were no longer on Italian soil, our right to a lawyer didn't exist", Byrne said. UK police officers on the spot told Mr Byrne that in the "immigration zone" the right to see a lawyer was a "utopian" idea.

In some cases where information was not available to the Italian police, this did not stop them from refusing entry. When a ferry carrying several coachloads of Greek demonstrators docked in the Adriatic port of Ancona on the east coast of Italy on 18 July, Italian police carried out identity checks and refused entry to 150 people. Ancona's chief of police said "We received detailed information and they have been sent back to Greece because they were considered dangerous for public order". Greek authorities denied this, and foreign minister Panos Beglitis expressed "strong regret for the brutal behaviour of the Italian police". Scajola later accepted that no information had been received and explained that they were sent back "for belonging to organisations". The head of the Greek section of Amnesty International was among those injured in clashes in the port of Ancona, and was not allowed into the country.

Others were refused entry at the Italian/French border in Ventimiglia, where a demonstration for open borders was held by Italian and French groups on 14 July, and the Italian/Swiss border at Como (Italy)/Chiasso (Switzerland), where clashes were reported on 16 July (see Statewatch news online, July 2001). Despite these attempts to deter protestors over 200,000 arrived in Genoa over the ensuing days.

Preventative raids and clashes

Dawn raids of campsites and buildings in which demonstrators were staying started on 18 July and continued through to the early morning of 21 July. These started with a search of the Carlini stadium hosting the "disobedient block". Its members included the Tute Bianche (White Overalls) whose objective was to use peaceful disobedience to advance and breach the red zone. Other camps, as well as the Pinelli social centre, which offered hospitality to anarchists, were searched in dawn raids, and the occupants' identities were recorded. Raids without warrants using anti-terrorist legislation in social centres around Italy in the weeks preceding the summit intensified as it approached, under the pretext of seeking weapons (see Statewatch news online, July 2001).

The first demonstration took place in the afternoon of 19 July when 50,000 people joined a march against racism and in defence of migrants' rights.

On 20 July several marches, including a trade unions march, a Genoa Social Forum march and the civil disobedience block march (which had been banned) headed for the "red zone". Clashes had begun at the edges of the "yellow zone" (a buffer area outside the "red zone") and around the civil disobedience march. Police used a water cannon after demonstrators attacked a petrol station and property in Piazza Manin, anarchists then laid seige to Marassi prison where police fired teargas. An authorised march by the "Disobedient bloc" was attacked by police as it headed down via Tolemaide leading to violent confrontation as protestors fought back. Further clashes developed near to Brignole station in Piazza Tommaseo and Piazza Alimonda where twenty-year-old Carlo Giuliani was shot in the head by Mario Placanica, a carabiniere conscript, as he approached the jeep with a fire extinguisher during clashes on the margins of the "yellow zone".

Luca Casarini, spokesperson for the Tute Bianche, who wanted to enter the "red zone" through peaceful civil disobedience, by padding their bodies, holding shields and passing through the sheer weight of numbers said they took part in the clashes in self-defence after being attacked by carabinieri.

Clashes also occurred where the bulk of the demonstration congregated on the southern edge of the "red zone" in Piazza De Novi, where members of the black block were accused of destroying property and offices. Stones were thrown at police who fired teargas before charging and blocking off exits, so that peaceful protestors found themselves trapped and beaten. Witnesses claimed that isolated protesters, "including thirteen-year-olds" were also beaten. Allegations were made by the GSF and political parties that police used neo-fascist infiltrators as agents provocateurs.

On 21 July the GSF called for a peaceful march to protest against third world debt and commemorate Carlo's death. Over 200,000 people took part, flowers were left on the spot where Giuliani died the day before and chants of "murderers" were directed at the police. A police attempt to divert the march along the route resulted in more teargas, police charges and running battles.

After the demonstrations were over, at around 3 am at night on 21 July police raided the Armando Diaz and Sandro Pertini schools. The GSF had moved its headquarters into the Armando Diaz school, and an independent media centre was upstairs. Police attacked people, left a room drenched in blood and destroyed computer hard discs, camera film and videotape evidence that lawyers for the GSF intended to use to in lawsuits against police officers. Some material was confiscated. An English freelance web designer, Mark Covell, was hospitalised with fractured ribs and a pierced lung. He gave a graphic description of the beatings he suffered, claiming that he pretended to be dead in order to save his life. Vittorio Agnoletto, the GSF spokesman with whom the government negotiated before the summit, was manhandled and struck as he tried to find out what was going on in the school, as were lawyers. Ninety-three people were arrested, most of whom were quickly released; sixty-three people were injured (see Statewatch News online, August 2001).

Abuse in detention

A member of Bolzaneto police flying squad said in an interview with Repubblica newspaper that members of GOM, the prison service flying squad, were responsible for systematic beatings and torture in the Bolzaneto prison complex, which they transformed in preparation for the summit. The policeman says that both the raid on 20 July and subsequent detention in Bolzaneto reflected "a suspension of rights, a void in the Constitution. I tried to speak to some colleagues, do you know what they answered: that...we shouldn't be afraid, because we're covered." He alleges that people were made to stand against a wall without moving for hours on end, women were threatened with being raped with truncheons, while other detainees were beaten for refusing to sing a fascist hymn. They were denied access to toilets, and some were even urinated on. GOM refuted the allegations, and another officer blamed the riot police. The reports of brutality, if not the identity of the perpetrators, were confirmed by accounts from the detainees. A man who only has one leg confirmed that he was made to stand until he collapsed. Simonetta Crisci, a lawyer who is defending protestors, says that charges will be brought over threats that women received in prison and carabinieri barracks which, she says, fall under "sexual violence" legislation. Crisci is part of a network of lawyers, the Genova Legal Forum, which is acting on behalf of demonstrators who have been charged with offences or are looking to file lawsuits against the police.

The aftermath - collective responsibility

Claudio Scajola addressed the Chamber of Deputies (lower house of parliament) on 23 July as demonstrators gathered to protest outside. He blamed the previous government for choosing Genoa as the venue for the summit and spoke of the overall success of the policing operation. "In Genoa, [there were no] difficulties in carrying out proceedings at the summit, as had been the case in Seattle, Nice and Gothenburg, where there were only 10 or 20,000 protestors, and violent factions of a few thousand persons. Here there were 200,000 demonstrators, and a few thousand violent extremists."

He tried to justify the raid on the GSF as being necessary to prevent clashes on the following day, although no demonstrations were planned and many protestors had already left Genoa. Scajola alleged that the GSF had connived with the black block and failed to isolate violent protesters. "It was clear that... even among the ranks of the GSF there substantial groups nesting which, behind the general idea of civil disobedience were nonetheless intending to infringe the law." He said that numerous weapons, including two molotov cocktails, had been retrieved during the raid, although a GSF spokesperson said that they were taken from a building site within the Sandro Pertini school opposite, which was also raided. As evidence of collusion with the black block, he added that a number of black tops had been found.

The government backed Scajola and the law enforcement agencies' role during the G8 summit, accusing the opposition of turning police from being the victims into the perpetrators. Gianfranco Fini went further, hinting at the possibility that there may have been connivance between people sitting on the opposition benches in parliament and the violent demonstrators on the streets. He was answering accusations by former prime minister and DS (Democratic Left) MP Massimo D'Alema who suggested that law enforcement agencies may have acted as they did because they felt they had political protection. He added, "In a democracy one can't mistake the rights of the winner of an election with the use of part of the [state] apparatus."

However, the repression against the anti-globalisation movement in Italy was not a new phenomenon. Police brutality and fascist sympathies among law enforcement officers had already been highlighted during demonstrations against the Global Forum in Naples on 17 March this year.

In the wake of events in Naples, sociologist Salvatore Palidda commented that "The facts which were explained in detail by the victims and numerous witnesses, as well as available footage, show that the brutal violence with which many officers from the police forces assaulted demonstrators in Naples was organised thuggery, sometimes overtly fascist." He claims that behind ideas such as "zero tolerance" the "social construction of a new violent [form] of social control is taking place" to impose social discipline. In an article for Il manifesto following the summit, Palidda implied that the violence was premeditated: "For weeks people in Genoa had often heard police officers promising to deliver beatings and brutal "lessons"". This view was confirmed in a letter by three activists from Paci Paciana social centre in Bergamo who were arrested in Genoa on 18 June, and claimed that a police officer attacked one of them and issued threats about what would happen in Genoa (see Statewatch news online, July 2001).

International condemnation

As wounded demonstrators began to return home, having been denied access to lawyers and consular staff for 48 hours, international condemnation concerning policing at the summit increased. German Green MP Hans Christian Stroebele evoked South American dictatorships to describe events in Genoa. The Berlin police force commissioner stated that no one from his force would have shot a protestor in similar circumstances. The Austrian spokesman for the European Green MEPs Johannes Voggenhuber was told by female Austrian detainees that they were made to strip and suffered sexual harassment in detention. The Austrian foreign minister Benita Ferrero Waldner was particularly critical of the failure by Italian authorities to free sixteen members of the noborder VolxTheatreKarawane, a theatre company which has been touring border camp initiatives around Europe (see Statewatch News online, August 2001).

Stephen Jakobi, director of Fair Trials Abroad, an organisation concerned with the fair treatment of people in foreign jurisdictions said: "Consular access in defiance of international law was denied to hospitalised and imprisoned Britons for at least 48 hours" adding that "the proper investigation of complaints and fair judicial treatment of the large number of Europeans arrested ... will be a test that will determine the way that cooperation in judicial affairs proceeds within Europe from now on". Amnesty International said Italian authorities "should institute a thorough review of the current training and deployment of law enforcement officers involved in crowd control and take all necessary measures to ensure that officers are adequately equipped and trained to employ non-lethal methods of crowd control, and that no more force than usual is used to control disturbances". AI also asked for an independent inquiry to be established.

A backlash in public order policing was expected after clashes in Gothenburg during the EU summit on 15 June (see Statewatch news online, June 2001). In Gothenburg the escalation was marked by the shooting of three demonstrators, including Hannes Westberg, who was in a coma for several weeks. EU governments praised the police, and regret for the shooting was overshadowed by the clamour for measures to prevent the protesters from leaving their countries to join protests in another.

After Genoa, the Italian government accepted the police practice whereby peaceful and direct action non-violent protestors were considered legitimate targets simply because they were on the streets while violence was taking place. Evidence of abuse and international criticism resulted in the removal of high-ranking police officers as a face-saving measures but leaves the responsibility of the government, ministers and other police bodies unanswered. The behaviour of the law enforcement agencies in Genoa fits a pattern of the increasing criminalisation of protest and social milieus (particularly in Italy) - but have the Italian police gone too far this time or will this be the pattern for future protests across the EU?

Sources: Urgent information from the government on the serious incidents which occurred in Genoa on occasion of the G8 summit - Interior Minister's statement in the chamber of deputies (23.7.2001) (; Statewatch news online, June & July 2001; Fair Trials Abroad press release 25.7.01; Amnesty international press release EUR 30/004/2001 22.7.01; Corriere della sera 15.7.01-8.8.01; Repubblica 8.5.01 & 15.7.01-8.8.01; Il manifesto 23.7.01; Times 17.7.01, 20.7.01, 24.7.01, 28.7.01; Guardian 20.7.01, 24.7.01, 27.7.01; Independent 20.7.01; Salvatore Palidda "Vecchi e nuovi tipi di violenza dell'ordine liberista", 24.7.01;

Statewatch News online | Join Statewatch news e-mail list | If you use this site regularly, you are encouraged to make a donation to Statewatch to support future research | Subscribe to Statewatch online just £10 a year

© Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals/"fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions of that licence and to local copyright law.

Our work is only possible with your support.
Become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.


Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.

Report error