Trigger-happy police
A protester shot dead by police
Wreaths placed in homage

Genoa Protests Against G-8 Meet

Never in its history since 1975, the G-8 summit faced a protest of such magnitude. That this was the annual meet of the world’s richest and most powerful gave it a unique political character. About one lakh people marched against the summit at Genoa, a port city in Italy on 20th July. Protestors at the Summit believed that the G-8 summits are fundamentally undemocratic, because the world’s rich countries are taking decisions that affect the vast majority who have no say. The rich countries were not willing to go further in providing debt relief for the world’s poorest countries. Moreover, the G-8’s policies of free trade have only led to further impoverishment of those countries. Protestors also objected to the failure of the rich countries to reach agreement on environmental objectives, especially after the US reneging on Kyoto Protocol.

Protesters in Genoa belonged to some 200 groups, including Genoa Social Forum, the main organiser, ATTAC, an international pressure group for a more equal distribution of wealth, Ya Basta, Italian radical anti-globalisation group, and Globalise Resistance, a British-based socialist organisation. Their three-day protest programme included ‘Migrants’ international march’ on 19 July, ‘Day of action’ on 20 July, when protesters would try to enter red zone, and ‘International march’ on 21 July.

To counter these programmes, the police had already sealed off the city, with the airport closed and a “ring of steel” formed around the city centre. More than 15,000 riot police, armed with tear gas and water cannons, was patrolling Genoa’s streets. Days before the summit started, a ‘red zone’ high security area was completely closed off the old port. A wider ‘yellow zone’ was closed to protesters. Helicopters, Surface-to-air missiles were placed at the city’s airport to guard against any possible air attack. A six-metre barricade was erected around the red zone, guarded by 20,000 police and troops. In addition, it was arranged that G-8 leaders would hold the meet and stay on ships in the harbour to avoid trouble.

On 19 July, ‘Migrants international march’ passed off peacefully but on ‘Day of action’ on 20 July, protestors tried to break through the red zone. Water cannons, teargas shells etc. were used at random by the police. The city of Genoa looked like a “war zone”. Police used their jeeps as a weapon, deliberately reversing into the crowd and striking protestors. Carlo Guiliani, a protestor, was defending himself from the jeep when police shot him “twice” at point blank range. As he lay dying, the cops drove the jeep repeatedly, back and forth over his body, to make sure he was dead. Another protestor, who was shot, is critical.

The protestors said, “We are here to show them people have other ideas about where the world needs to go ... We came here with a serious message. We are trying to represent the voiceless, people in the third world who can’t come to these meetings. They’re not invited. But decisions made here have a huge effect on them. It would be awful for both our supporters and for the people we represent in the third world if our voice was lost because of this violence.”

-- BB Pandey