Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/216/9151
On the march against capitalism
ONCE AGAIN, as at the time of the anti-EU protests in Gothenburg, the media of the world has concentrated almost exclusively on the violent confrontations in Genoa, instead of showing why the majority of the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators were there and what they are saying.
The Committee for a Workers International (CWI) had members from 12 countries present in Genoa, including from the Socialist Party in England and Wales.
We are campaigning for the truth to be told about what happened in Genoa through an independent inquiry.
We will strive in every way possible to counter the lies of the big business owners of the press, TV and radio companies who are continuing their scurrilous campaign to demonise and criminalise the anti-capitalist movement.
Few words from them about the 50,000-strong March of the Immigrants - bigger than even the organisers expected - that made its way colourfully and good-naturedly through the city on the evening of Thursday 19 July.
No detailed reports on why 70,000 people were on the streets at various points around the city the following day to greet Bush and Co.
in their own particular ways. No extensive coverage of the 300,000 people who thronged onto the sea-front to protest about the G8 and about the killing of one of their fellow protesters and wounding and arresting of hundreds more.
We have raised the need for mass action, including that of a 24-hour general strike in Italy, to protest about the brutality of Berlusconi's state and his totally anti-working class policies.
We will continue, along with other organisations, to expose the real criminals in capitalist society but also to fight for a socialist alternative.
Local people backed the demo
IN BRIGHT sunshine, an angry though good-natured crowd protested in Genoa. The anger wasn't only about the obscene inequality this system is based on but about the death of a protester, shot in the face by the police.
Distributing leaflets in Italian, French, Spanish and English, with other material in German and Dutch, we discuss with working-class people from all over Europe.
The 300,000 crowd is, however, predominantly Italian who see this gigantic demonstration as a show of strength against the election of far-rightwing Silvio Berlusconi, as much as against the G8.
Political groups, many from left parties or independent trade unions, meet community-based and environmental movements.
The Worldwide Fund for Nature's giant panda embraces the Greek Communist Party's hammer and sickle.
There are tens of thousands of workers and many contingents of organised trade unionists even though this wasn't a trade union organised demo like last year's 100,000-strong mobilisation in Nice.
Progress was slow on the march. Reaching the brow of a slope, you could see protesters as far as the eye could see. Tear gas canisters were letting off choking clouds.
Despite all the propaganda and the extent of some of the damage done over the past few days, you could see overwhelming support from local people and an absolute hatred of the Italian police.
From there it was cat-and-mouse with the police. We met up with the Greek CWI section and walked through a designated "safe" area in negotiations between the organisers and the police.
It wasn't safe. With confrontations with the police increasing, we had to move out.
We wanted to try to get back to the Convergence Point. But every route was blocked. Driven back by tear gas and police action we were forced across the river. We expected a full-frontal assault at any time.
Incredibly, at around five in the afternoon, we found our coach. The drivers agreed to transport some extra passengers across town twice. We saw thousands of police sectioning off areas. Hundreds of riot police and vans guarded the police station.
All states are clamping down on these demonstrations. We need to protect ourselves by having well-organised, mass stewarding to maintain the cohesion needed to repel police attacks.
This can be achieved through democratically elected coordinating committees, drawing on the wealth of experience in the workers' movement internationally.
It would mean different groups co-operating in the interests of defending the demonstrations.
Live ammunition was used in Gothenburg and led to a death in Genoa. To try to prevent this happening again, the movement has to put organised self-defence up the agenda.
Tear gas and beatings - the photographer's story
SOCIALIST PARTY photographer PAUL MATTSSON came under attack from both police and "anarchists/ agents provocateurs". He explains:
On Thursday the first demo of about 70,000 was provocatively policed. I had G8 accreditation which gave me access to the media centre in the red zone. But every time I went there I was searched, including being asked to drop my trousers in public.
On Friday's demo some protesters were very hostile to photographers. It's fair enough if they don't want to be photographed doing some things but they were trashing off-licences, looting and getting drunk.
They went into this working-class area and chucked kids' bicycles into the fires, trashing and burning people's scruffy old cars etc.
We found all hell breaking loose in a narrow street. One copper sprayed us in the face with pepper spray. Later a tear-gas canister hit my helmet. Myself and another photographer were shot at with plastic bullets. I was shot through the pocket of my trousers and lost six rolls of film.
The Saturday demo was again provocatively policed. After the protester had been shot dead people were angry with the police. When a crowd of trade unionists, priests, nuns etc. started putting the v-sign up, the coppers sent over two tear gas canisters which gassed all those peaceful protesters.
Further on, stewards tried to get the march to go right but one bloke ignored this and went up to the police, who sent about 20 tear gas canisters flying through the air.
When I tried to catch up with the peaceful demo someone grabbed my camera strap. About seven black-clad anarchists or coppers or whatever they were trashed my camera gear. They tried to yank my helmet and gas mask off, grabbed my head and smashed it though a window.
Two British SWP members pulled me out. When I went to the media centre to make a report for the insurance for my camera gear, I was sent to the main police station.
I wasn't happy about this but some film-makers came with me.
The police kept asking me who the people who attacked me were. I said they all had masks on and I just wanted to make a statement for insurance purposes. They looked at my press credentials which clearly said The Socialist. Nonetheless they accused me of being an anarchist and asked if I knew any protesters and said they'd like to see my film.
They said I'd have to see someone in 'the office' but I could hear someone getting a kicking. "The office is not ready yet," they said. "When the office is ready we'll see you."
The Italian press was sympathetic to the protests, apart from Berlusconi's papers. They'd printed pictures showing police brutality and I thought: "This is pay-back time for them". I thought I'll get detained on some trumped up charge or get beaten.
A young French guy came out with a bruised and bloody face. They pushed him out the front of the building and kicked him up the arse, shouting: "Go back to France."
I managed to escape and got the train back.
"Red flags were everywhere you looked"
I WAS on the CWI contingent with comrades from all over Europe. It was impressive marching along with local people lining the route and joining with us singing the Internationale.
As we went through a working-class area, people leaned out of their windows cheering us on. It was really hot so they played hosepipes on us to cool us down and passed out bottles of water.
We were careful to defend our contingent behind the banner. We had people linking arms so we could defend it if necessary. As we were walking back a teargas attack started people running. The police were driving people back. We got everyone together and went back towards the rallying point.
I never saw any violence from any people around us. But we got driven back towards this stadium. The organisers wanted us to go in but we were a bit dubious so we stayed on the road outside. Even then the police were firing teargas in the area.
The whole situation was tense because of the tear gas and the killing. When people saw the police they shouted "Assassins!"
It was overwhelmingly youthful. Everywhere you looked you saw red flags and Che Guevara T-shirts. We were singing the Internationale and Bandiera Rossa and everyone was joining in. We had a very lively contingent, when the police were trying to drive people back we were organised to protect people.
We kept everyone together and made sure everyone was OK. That had a big impact and people wanted to demonstrate with us.
We found out later that some people had been trapped on the beach by the police, who made them walk through their ranks with their hands in the air.
There were police dressed up as anarchists holding riot shields completely blatantly.
On the coach back, loads of people wanted to join International Socialist Resistance, mainly because it's socialist.
A few days before the G8 summit, Italian leader Berlusconi gave Genoa people money to paint their houses to impress the G8 leaders.
He told people not to hang their washing out to dry, particularly women's underwear. In protest, people did completely the opposite, just as they did when Mussolini invited Hitler to Genoa.
Press conference exposes police violence
A PRESS conference on the Sunday, organised by the Genova Social Forum (GSF) attracted around 1,500 demonstrators and press.
Here we learned the true extent of police violence. The medical organiser said that the 150 medics had been called on at least 500 times, way beyond expectations.
Typical injuries were head wounds exposed to the bone, broken bones, shock caused by baton attacks and by marching demonstrators into walls and throwing them down stairs.
Medics were attacked for helping wounded demonstrators and ambulances had tear gas thrown into them.
Three back-up ambulances were destroyed. Police had in particular targeted female protesters.
On Saturday night the police attacked the media centre and a school opposite where demonstrators were sleeping.
Everyone there was either hospitalised or arrested, one British man was left in a coma. All computer equipment was either seized or destroyed.
The Italian media showed the carnage left, with pools of blood everywhere. All legal assistance was denied to the victims. In all over a tonne of tear gas was used, many canisters aimed directly at demonstrators to cause maximum injury.
The aftermath of Genoa
TWO BRITISH care workers and UNISON members, Richard Moth and Nicola Docherty, were badly beaten in the raid on the GSF building, arrested and imprisoned for four days without contact with the British consul.
There were fears that they had been further beaten in custody and were therefore deemed 'unpresentable' by the Genoa authorities.
Socialist councillor Dave Nellist was involved in protesting on their behalf.
More than 200,000 people demonstrated in cities across Italy to protest at police violence in Genoa.
50,000 marched in Rome. 15,000 in Bologna and Genoa, 15,000 to 20,000 in Milan.
Demonstrators wearing target symbols on their heads waved red flags and chanted "assassinos" at the police.
AFTER THE news came through of the death of Carlo Giuliani, CWI members met and drew up demands and slogans which were immediately displayed in English and Italian on posters and placards in the main assembly area.
The demands included:
- Expose police provocations, killings and attacks. For an independent inquiry.
- Mass action to defend the right to demonstrate.
- For a 24-hour general strike.
A Socialist Party member from Cork in Ireland raised these demands at a mass assembly of demonstrators and was greeted with stormy applause.
They were then taken up by sections of the mass demo the next day.
When Simon Donovan, a Socialist Party member in England and Wales raised the demand for a 24-hour general strike at a press conference on the Sunday it was enthusiastically received by the 1,500 people present.
In The Socialist 27 July 2001: