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World: Protesters, Police Clash For A Second Day

  • Mark Baker

Police and protesters have clashed for a second day in Genoa, the site of this year's G-7 plus Russia summit. A planned peaceful march through the city by around 100,000 anti-globalization protesters was hijacked by a small number of violent demonstrators who hurled rocks and bottles at police. A melee ensued, leaving broken windows and overturned cars in its wake. RFE/RL correspondent Mark Baker was at the scene and reports that the mood was already tense following the death on 20 July of an Italian protester, who was shot by police under unclear circumstances.

Genoa, 22 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Italian police and anti-globalization demonstrators clashed on 21 July for a second day in the Italian port of Genoa, the site of this year's annual summit of leaders of the seven major industrialized countries (the G-7) and Russia.

As many as 100,000 demonstrators -- gathered here to oppose the meeting -- had planned a peaceful march through the city. But the march quickly disintegrated into chaos as small groups of protesters detached from the main body and hurled rocks and bottles at police.

The police, in turn, dressed in full riot gear, responded with water cannons and tear gas, and moved in quickly to disburse the protesters.

There were no immediate confirmed reports of injuries, but an RFE/RL reporter saw several ambulances -- lights flashing -- moving to and from the main skirmish zones.

The material damage was substantial. Cars were overturned and burned, windows were broken, and buildings were set alight. Thick smoke could be seen over wide areas of the city.

Residents and peaceful protesters alike were angered by the outbreak of violence.

The (unnamed) demonstrator speaking here was caught and held by police although he was unarmed and had broken no laws. He mocks the police for "handcuffing" him and calls on the residents of Genoa to come into the streets to see what is happening.

"I would like to congratulate the police and the military police. They have me in handcuffs. We have to say to the people of Genoa to get out of their houses (and come in to the streets). I don't want to make trouble, I just want to say congratulations."

The mood in Genoa was especially tense on 21 July after a police officer the day before shot and killed 23-year-old Italian protester Carlo Guiliani. Guiliani is the first protester to die in the series of anti-globalization demonstrations that began in Seattle two years ago.

The circumstances surrounding Guiliani's death are still unclear, but news of the shooting cast a pall over the city. Police originally said the officer shot Guiliani in self defense after Guiliani attacked the policeman and two others in their vehicle. But authorities now say they are considering charging the officer with manslaughter.

Protest organizations immediately accused the police of covering up the facts.

A spokesman for the main umbrella group organizing the protests, the Genoa Social Forum, said the evidence surrounding the shooting was inconsistent with self-defense. The group has called on the interior minister to resign and for officials to open a full investigation.

The Genoa Social Forum represents dozens of organizations that oppose meetings like the G-7 for promoting policies that they say impose unfair burdens on the world's poor. The forum says it supports only non-violent forms of protest.

Guiliani was one of thousands of demonstrators who converged on a 10-kilometer wall of chain link fence that police had erected around the city center to keep the protesters from disrupting the G-7 plus Russia summit.

Some 20,000 police had been deployed at various points along the perimeter to stop unauthorized personnel from entering the so-called "Red Zone," the area around the central Palazzo Ducale where the main meetings were held.

Some protest organizations had vowed to penetrate the Red Zone, saying the chain-link fences and checkpoints infringed on their democratic right to move about the city.

Demonstrators at one point managed to breach the zone by pushing in on the iron gates:

But police quickly fired water cannons into the crowd, pushing the protesters back from the security perimeter. Police then secured the gate with an armored car.

Michel is an eight-year resident of Genoa, coming to the city originally from Lebanon. He and his family live in the part of town that has seen the worst of the skirmishes.

He undoubtedly speaks for many in this city of 700,000 when he says it's senseless to protest globalization since the forces propelling the modern economy are beyond the grasp of any one nation or group of nations, even the G-7.

"It's nonsense to protest against the G-8 (G-7 plus Russia) because we are [all] automatically the way we are dressing, all of us have the Internet. It's nonsense. It will be better if we search for a political globalization."

He -- like residents of Seattle, Prague, Goteburg, and other cities that have recently played host to international events and the protesters they draw -- will no doubt be very happy to see this show leave town.