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Genoa Eyewitness Accounts
DAY TWO - FRIDAY JULY 20TH
The Point Of No Return
"Protesters awoke on Friday morning to find that the red zone
leapt four blocks east overnight. Despite 70,000 marching on Thursday,
once the tear gas filled the streets Friday morning, tens of thousands
of protesters had miraculously (or not) disappeared.
An anarchist block assembling in Piazza Paolo di Novi had barely
started filling their bins with cobblestones when the state police
volleyed in the first CS rounds. A street battle ensued pushing
us eastwards - away from the target zone."
"A black flag waving marching band managed to regroup the
four thousand strong unit, who then crossed the railway and headed
to the northern limits of the red zone, stopping on the way to rearrange
some banks and feed the masses thanks to a helpful supermarket (on
the return journey the shutters were still off and local residents
were taking shopping trolleys full of free groceries home).
However, it is true that the focus of the siege was lost for a
while beneath the youthful excitement of trashing the banks. It
was unfortunate that the post office, bus stops and a few local
traders got trashed, and several times the block stopped moving
towards it's goal due to a window breaking frenzy. It may be inspiring
that several thousands of young people are prepared to don crash
helmets and gas masks to forward the anarchist cause - but the more
focussed elements of the block were saying 'If we are here to bust
the G8, let's bust the G8, if we're here to fight the police, let's
fight the police - but let's not fart around trashing people's communities
coz it's 'black block style to hoof bricks at windows'. Having said
this, mass disobedience and the element of chaos is not to be underestimated,
on top of that, many of the block were highly focussed on why they
were here, and pushed the police advances back."
"In a beautiful old barrio, the battle raged. Protesters charged
up tightstreets flinging stones at police lines. The police, protected
head to toe, amassed behind shields and flanked by armoured vehicles,
responded with tear gas and by flinging back the rocks. The ferocious
spirit of the protesters more than the paltry stones pushed back
the police lines. Barricades were built with dumpsters, cars, anything
at hand. The front lines would retreat nursing wounds and poisoned
eyes. The more seriously injured were carried to ambulances. New
people rushed to the front, while others tore up the pavement for
surge, everyone rushed forward on 2 or 3 different streets. Some
riot cops got stranded in their retreat and hand-to-hand fighting
ensued. Those fighting are not necessarily in black, though they
are masked. Some have helmets. It is not the Black Bloc, and there
are no agent provocateurs. This is a militant energy driven by people
who have said - Ya Basta!, Fuck the police! rage! energy! resolve!"
"They move forward. Tear gas is everywhere. The police are
retreating. An armoured carabinieri truck is captured and the occupants
flee. It is smashed up and set ablaze. This symbol of the hated
oppressive state is burning and everyone is cheering, filled with
rebel joy. Someone sprays 'We Are Winning!' on the side of the carcass
of the armoured beast. Now they are almost in Piazza Alimondo. They
are pushing the police back, two blocks, then three, further and
further. Protesters are euphoric, storming forward, overwhelming
the despised carabinieri. Approaching the wall of the G8; 'Here
we are,' they chant, 'we resist!'"
"Hundreds strong, they poured into the expansive Piazza Alimondo.
Two armoured police Land Rovers drive recklessly into the crowd,
one drives away, the other stalls; obviously it didn't want to scratch
its paintwork by ramming the wheelie-bin out of the way. It was
attacked, the cop at the back began waving his gun around, deliberately
pointing it at different people. Some saw it and retreated. Some
didn't. Carlo walked across the back of the van and picked up a
red fire extinguisher lying on the ground. He turned and advanced
on the van and was shot in the head."
Tute Bianche: What A Gas
Preparations began early at Carlini Stadium - Ya Basta HQ - with
talks followed by training sessions. Resembling an army preparing
for war, the 10,000 of them spent all morning taping up their bodies
with foam and padding. The atmosphere was tense, the mood defiant.
Anything was possible. There was an ecstatic mood of celebration
when we finally set off on the 4 km march to the city centre. An
endless sea of bopping helmets interspersed with a vast array of
flags of every hue and color. At the front a long line of Ya Basta
militants pressed forward behind a wall of plastic shields.
Despite all the ominous reports, we swept down the wide boulevard
confidently - we were so many! So many people prepared to use their
bodies to break through, to defend themselves, to struggle. 'El
Pueblo Unido, Jamas Sera Vencido' they chanted. 'Genova Libera!'
'E-Z-L-N!' Rage Against The Machine blasted from the mobile P.A.
It was momentarily powerful and wonderful.
Two kilometres from the Red Zone, the police attacked us. First
a barrage of tear-gas canisters were lobbed over the front lines,
deep into the heart of the demonstration. Nobody had gas masks (doh!
- ed). The people, packed in tightly, panicked and surged backwards.
500 heavily armed riot squad stormed the front lines. In brutal
scenes, the Ya Basta militants crumbled despite brave resistance.
All were battered. People screamed, turned, fled, falling over each
We retreated up the road. The sky was heavy with gas and helicopters
hovered overhead. A water cannon blasted away, throwing bodies around
like paper bags. What now? People looked to the Ya Basta leadership
in all this disarray but there was no Plan B - the microphone that
issued commands during the march was now silent. People retreated
further and further, meanwhile the front lines struggled to hold
on, and the fighting was intense, the tear gas volleys raining down,
the police hitting out viciously as the plastic shields shattered
and the helmets cracked. Bleeding people were rushed to the back
with head injuries including some inflicted when they had been shot
in the face with tear gas canisters.
were defeated before even beginning. The non-violent, active defence
tactic crushed in the face of decisively brutal police tactics.
As the majority of the march sat down further up the road, thousands
of others streamed off into the side streets. The north side was
blocked by the railway track, to the south lay small enclosed streets.
"Open new fronts! Break through police lines at 2, 3, 4 different
points!" Spontaneous and enraged, thousands ran into the sidestreets.
Meanwhile, the Ya Basta loudspeaker requested people to stay put
on the road, far from the Red Zone.
"On the day the pink block wove through the Genoa streets,
singing and dancing and exchanging waves and smiles with people
in their houses. It was a vibrant atmostphere. The pink march breached
police lines and attacked the fence - the first tear gas of the
day scattered us, but we regrouped and tried agian - more tear gas.
Behind the fence were armoured tanks with machine guns on top. We
have no doubt that if we had succeeded in getting over we would
have been shot.
We regouped further off to decide what to do next, then were caught
up in a maelstrom of black block and police, scattering us like
leaves. More tear gas, so much we couldn't breathe, but this time
savage beatings for the people who couldn't run fast enough. We
were all in shock and traumatised by this point.
After winding back through more streets, we found Ya Basta! massed
in thousands trying to breach the fence. The amount of tear gas
being used was unbelieveable, but there was order - the canisters
were quickly thrown back at them. The police suddenly charged with
tanks and we scattered again, fleeing into side streets. The police
blocked everywhere - someone told us that there had been a death
nearby. Eventually we managed to get round and back to where we
had started from - passing random groups of traumatised, injured
and angry people as we went.
We ended the day in shock and pain, watching slow motion shots
of the death of Carlo Guiliani repeated over and over again, interspersed
with Bush, Blair, etc looking grey and distant and somehow irrelevant,
and wondered where we would go from here."
NB From all accounts people moved around a lot between blocks,
and the make-up of individual blocks was varied. For instance many
COBAS people - an anarchist union group - ran with the black block.
Many people were still deciding who to go with at the last minute,
and the pink block was only announced on the Thursday. Many started
with Tute Bianche but left due to its authoritarian and ineffectual
tactics to join the black block or others; numbers would have left
the black block because they were tired or getting paranoid.