In July 2001, over 300,000 people took to the streets of Genoa, Italy in opposition to the G8 Summit to which the city was playing host. Streets were blockaded, sit-ins were held, the ‘Red Zone’ around the conference centre was laid siege to, and symbols of neoliberalism were attacked. The Italian police and Carabinieri (military police) attacked the demonstrators brutally and indiscriminately. Hundreds were beaten in the streets and maltreated in custody. One 23-year-old Italian demonstrator, Carlo Giuliani was shot dead by Carabinieri.
The immediate period following the Summit saw an upsurge in struggle across Italy. This was not only a result of the new forms of cooperation and struggle that the Genoa protests had produced (and experiments with various types of ‘disobedience’ in particular), but also a desire not to see the movement crushed by violent state repression. This upturn generally continued – despite persistent police harassment and intimidation – until the left finally began to fracture in 2006; largely as a result of the fall-out which followed the decision by a number of left wing parties and activists to participate in the new governing centre-left coalition, L’Unione.
Despite pre-election pledges to do so by a number of those participating in the coalition, calls for a parliamentary enquiry into the police and military excesses in Genoa have recently been rejected. Instead, a show trial has been held of 25 of those accused of offences during the Summit. In effect, however, the legal proceedings have served as a point around which the (radical-)left can begin to find new ways and means of cooperating with one another. The campaign of support with the defendants so far culminated on November 17, 2007, shortly before the verdicts, with a huge demonstration in Genoa. Tens of thousands took part.
However, on Friday 15 December, 2007, the trial finally came to a close. Of the 25 defendants, only one was acquitted. The remaining 24 received custodial sentences of between five months and 11 years in prison. Amongst the charges for which many were convicted were ‘Devastation and Pillage’, an offence introduced under fascism in Italy, designed to prevent foreign troops ransacking towns and cities.
The movement to support – and demand freedom for – the prisoners needs to continue, broadening itself out and deepening its roots; in Italy, across Europe and beyond. Similarly, it needs to be generalised into a movement which not only supports the prisoners, but the political right to full participation in society; determining the way in which we live and govern ourselves. This right, of course, not only needs to imply the right to resist politically and democratically illegitimate institutions, like the G8; but also to defend ourselves when beaten, imprisoned, tortured, shot at, or killed for doing so.
Free the Genoa prisoners!
The statement of support written by Turbulence ahead of the November 17, 2007, demonstration in Genoa can still be found online here
Read the Call to the demonstration by the organising groups in Italy
Buy a copy of the book On Fire: The battle of Genoa and the anti-capitalist movement (AK Press: 2002) here.
More information is available from Global Project