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Genoa Eyewitness Accounts
MIDNIGHT SATURDAY JULY 21ST
Night: GSF Building Raid
"After the violence of Saturday, and news that the Carlini
stadium - where most of the Tute Bianche were staying - was under
the control of plain clothes cops it was on the cards that this
centre would become under attack. There was a strategy to stash
all the video tapes gathered by Indymedia, knowing that the raw
footage may contain incriminating evidence (and people were saying
that the cops 'know that we have video evidence of police presence
in the black block').
"At about 10PM some police vehicles drove past the two buildings
(on one side the school used by the GSF including their legal and
medical offices, with one floor housing Indymedia; and on the other
side of the street School A. Diaz which was more of an accommodation
centre). Somebody threw an object at the police car. Helicopters
were buzzing. There was that feeling of 'this is gonna kick off'.
I thought 'er time to go round the corner for a pizza' - and when
I got there a few of the other Indymedia people had the same idea.
We were having food when suddenly there was a convoy of police vehicles,
riot vans, then marching troops. People began nervously dialling
The first sign of the worst was when we rang the legal office in
the GSF building - the phone answered and someone said 'it's OK',
but voices in the background shouted "don't say anything -
We had to convince the pizza bar manager that we were in danger
if he kicked us out, and he let us hide there until it was all clear
had just finished our meeting when we heard shouts and sirens and
the roar of people yelling, objects breaking. The cops had come
and they were raiding the centre. We couldn't get out of the building
because there were too many people at the entrance. We went up,
running up the five flights of stairs, to the very top. We found
an empty room, a couple of tables, grabbed some sleeping bags to
cover our heads if we got beaten. And waited. We could hear doors
being slammed and voices shouting below, then quiet. Someone came
in, walked around, left. The light went on. Through a crack between
the tables, I could see a helmet, a face. A big Italian cop with
a huge paunch loomed over us. He told us to come out. He didn't
seem in beating mode, but we stayed where we were, tried to talk
to him in English and Spanish and the few Italian words I know:
"paura" "fear"and "pacifisti". He
took us down to the third floor, where a whole lot of people were
sitting, lined up against the walls. We waited. Someone came in,
demanding to know whether there was someone there from Irish Indymedia.
We waited. Lawyers arrived. The police left."
From the vantage point of the 4th floor of the GSF building looking
across the street to the School A. Diaz: "I could see at least
100 cops kick the door in of the school, and we could see through
the windows police truncheoning people sleeping. I saw one man held
down while two bashed him. Tear gas was used. Nobody was getting
out. We stood in total fear, then after watching this, at 12:10AM
news came up that they were now breaking through into our building."
"At 12:20 I climbed up to the roof of the building and and
lay face down for 1 1/2 hours, with a helicopter spotlight scanning
around, and sound of screaming coming from the school. At some point
we found out the Carabinieri had left our building, and we went
back to looking at the scene across the street. At least fifteen
people were being stretchered out, and the crowd screamed when police
came out with what looked like a body bag - but I think this was
a stunt to upset people (no death has been confirmed)."
"They had come in to the rooms where people were sleeping.
Everyone had raised up their hands, calling out 'pacifisti! pacifist!'
And they beat the shit out of every person there."
"Police vans were passing all the time, and ambulances racing
with sirens every 5-10 minutes. This was a chilling sign that a
lot of people were getting badly hurt. A Carabinieri came to the
entrance of the pizza bar which was our refuge. He asked if there
were protesters inside, and evidently he was convinced that there
weren't, and went."
"In the school A. Diaz was the sound of screaming. Out of
a group of 400 people which arrived from the Carlini Stadium, thinking
that it was going to be safer here (numbers were too small by now
at Carlini), a group of 20 year old Spanish pacifists were hurt
badly, eight of them were hospitalised, and eight-nine arrested.
The Spanish legal team feared the worst about police beatings."
From the Indymedia Rooms: "At first we tried to have a barricade,
but then realised that this would antagonise the cops. From the
second floor we heard banging. Then they came through here. There
was a group of plain clothes cops - with batons. We had our hands
up, then we (about 30) were put facing the wall spreadeagle while
the police went around the computers. Then they let us sit down.
One of the police was a woman in a high fashion outfit and a truncheon.
We could see them taking some laptops, and minidisc players, other
recording equipment and... some salad knives. They wouldn't let
us answer phones."
"A crowd had gathered and were shouting 'Assassini! Assasini!'
They brought out the waking wounded, arrested them and took them
away. The crowd below was challenging the cops and the cops were
challenging the crowd and suddenly a huge circle of media gathered,
bright camera lights."
A photographer outside: "I was taking pictures of the injured.
I thought some of them were dead. Then I got a truncheon in the
stomach. The cop took the camera, another held my arms behind my
back, pinning me to a wall. I had him thinking that my Indymedia
pass was actually an official media pass and he let me go."
"I heard a policeman say 'there's too much media.'"
The GSF legal office on the 2nd floor was the only room in this
building trashed - computers and phones badly damaged.
"A woman with a badge with an EU symbol finally came to the
building, and this was the moment when the violence stopped. Evidently
she had the power to stop them. Then the police retreated, but still
occupied the street."
From Indymedia: "As soon as they were gone we immediately
shut down all computers, and removed any sensitive phone numbers
in the rooms. We found that despite the gear which had been taken
- all the images saved on the files were still there, and the tapes
safe." (most of the footage had already been uploaded anyway).
"We then got on with emailing news outside."
"At 4AM we were back at the GSF. We immediately found out
about the horrendous injuries to British media activist Sky (See
SchNEWS 316). In the aftermath I walked around the school - large
pools of blood along the corridor, smears on the walls, and personal
objects, clothing and bandages bloodied. Peoples' possessions just
thrown around the room on the ground floor where they were sleeping.
Some people were still weeping and trembling. All the computers
in the foyer had smashed screens (as though the dickhead cops thought
the screen held the memory). At this point there was an emergency
meeting to plan support for those hospitalised and arrested - work
was missing, who had transport etc."
Later we got stories back from arrestees: "We know that they
have arrested everyone they hospitalised, taken people to jail and
tortured them. One young French man had his head badly beaten on
Friday in the street. In jail, they took him into a room, twisted
his arms behind his back and banged his head on the table. Another
man was taken into a room covered with pictures of Mussolini and
pornography, and alternately slapped around and then stroked with
affection in a weird psychological torture. Others were forced to
shout, "Viva El Duce"!! Just in case it wasn't clear that
this is fascism, Italian style."
"The next morning - as a final insult - we watched on a café
TV the police laying out tables of weapons, sledgehammers, molotovs,
knives, etc, which they claimed to have confiscated from the buildings,
justifying the raids. But what would a Spanish pacificist walking
three miles at night to safety be doing carting a sledgehammer?"
"Back at the GSF building at lunchtime, everybody was in a
panic saying that the place would be raided again, and all people
could think about was getting out of town. They were furiously packing
down roomfuls of computers. There were scare stories that once you'd
left Genoa, and on your own, regional police would attack you. I
took a bus out of town, and boarded a train south. I sunk into the
seat in the carriage feeling lucky to have escaped with my life."