Witness Genoa

A report back from Manchester activist Tim Gillibrand who was at the recent G8 protests

We took a flight on the Friday morning from Manchester to Brussels followed by a connection to Milan. Officially there were no trains from Milan to Genoa. However, through a mixture of "Spanglish" and mime we managed to find a train and during the journey we heard the shocking news of the death of Carlo Guiliani.

We arrived in Genoa late Friday. A procession of grim faced demonstrators passed us, many showed signs of vicious police beatings, black eyes, broken noses, bandaged heads and limbs. As we passed an encampment of protestors they warned us that there were riot police ahead. We climbed over the fence into a huge underground car park. There were hundreds of protesters sleeping on the floor. Walking between the sleeping bodies we left the car park and walked into a flood lit stadium with thousands in tents and a huge marquee covering most of the stadium floor. They were predominately young Italian men and women. Scattered about were the paraphernalia of anti-globalisation demonstrators: gas masks and goggles for protection from tear gas, helmets to protect venerable skulls from being crushed by police batons, body padding to reduce the impact of savage beatings from the security forces and flimsy makeshift shields to defend against plastic bullets.

It was deeply moving to see these brave young people who were prepared to use their bodies to try and breach the fortified summit area. They had been beaten, gassed and shocked by the murder of a comrade. The mood was subdued but defiant.

The next day, we joined 150,000 people on a massive solidarity march. It was amazing! Groups who would usually have nothing to do with each other had come together. Their common cause was to demand that the people suffering the consequences of global capitalism get to make the decisions affecting their lives, not the G8. There were individuals from aged 16 to well over 70, trade unions with their banners, environmentalists, a whole range of political groups from the left, faith groups and anarchists. The sheer number of people and causes was overwhelming. It was a really inspiring sight, something to lift your spirits.

Gassed in Genona

We marched together through the hot afternoon, singing and chanting. Eventually the section of the march we were in came to a halt. The route of the march was packed with people in front and behind us. We could see clouds of tear gas in the distance further along the march. Slowly but surely the gas began to roll towards us. Many in the crowd had no idea what was happening and could not move back because of the mass behind them. The police were indiscriminately bombing the crowd with tear gas. The crowd was too tightly packed to escape. We were lucky and managed to get out of the gas after only a few seconds of rising panic, burning eyes and choking breath but the bombardment of gas canisters continued dropping in front of and behind the fleeing crowd.

This was no dispersal of a mob of rioters - there was not a police officer in sight and there had been no trouble in this section of the march. The gassing was an assault on peaceful protesters to punish them for daring to stand up to global capitalism.

As we made our way back along the route of the march a stream of ambulances passed us. I shuddered to think of what had happened to the people who hadn't escaped the gas because of the crush of the crowd. There was nothing else to do so we made our way back to Manchester.

I'm one of those white middle class demonstrators who could actually afford to go to Genoa. The people most affected by the brutal indifference of the G8 don't even have the money for food, health care or education never mind the travel cost to Genoa. This experience has radicalised me - I will now join the people all over the world who are already searching for and enacting the means to end this tyranny. Take back the power; become the resistance!

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© Networking Newsletter (August 2001)