Genoa 2002: 150,000 Strong

Jul 21, 2002

At 5.27 last Saturday all the horns and hooters blared out in the port of Genoa. This was exactly the time Carlo Giuliani was murdered by police during the anti-G8 summit protests last year.


The dockers had agreed to do it as a gesture of solidarity. Immediately afterwards, the crowds packed in to piazza Alimonda, the site of Carlo’s death, broke into an applause which lasted 15 minutes, during which hundreds of coloured balloons were released.

This was the most emotional moment in a whole week of activities. The Genoa Social Forum had organised several days of debates, film shows, photo exhibitions, and another concert with Manu Chao. A landing of ‘illegal immigrants’ from Pakistan, Senegal and Marocco took place on the sea front. They were welcomed on the beach by a brass band and slices of melon: ‘this is how a civilised country should welcome people who come looking for work’ said Gilberto Marengo, of the Genoa Open City association.

On Friday evening, the day before the big march, 100 ‘disobedient’ activists occupied the Diaz school, the organising centre of the GSF where twelve months ago the police broke in without warning, brutally attacking sleeping protestors, almost killing several of them. A press release said: ‘We’ve gone back in here to bring life, in a place where they tried to bring death.’ Two large banners were hung outside: ‘Reclaim your life’ and ‘This time, please knock before entering’, referring sarcastically to the police attack last year. Two Communist Refoundation MPs, and a Green MP, immediately joined the symbolic occupation, as did Luca Casarini, main leader of the ‘disobedient’ wing of the movement.

This issue of police repression has continued to haunt the Berlusconi government since last July. An Amnesty International report recently stated: ‘During the G8 summit human rights were suspended, violated and destroyed in the most serious break-down of a European democracy since the end of the Second World War.’

As people arrived from the night buses and trains many of them went to piazza Alimonda to leave flowers and messages. What was equally interesting was the famous figures who came to pay their respects to the Giuliani family. Nobel prize-winning actress Franca Rame came, as did Giovanni Pesce, 86 year-old hero of the Resistance movement against Mussolini during the Second World War. He told them he didn’t have any feelings about the policeman who had shot Carlo, but about ‘whoever gave the order to use firearms, and the plan behind all of this. In any event, I’m here to say that the Resistance continues.’

Sergio Cofferati, leader of the CGIL union federation, which is organising regional general strikes at the moment, and will hold another general strike in early October, was warmly welcomed, even though the CGIL didn’t support the protests last year. But Luciano Violante, a leader of the DS, the equivalent of the Labour Party, was loudly booed: ‘Shame on you’, people shouted at him, ‘You’re only here to put yourself on display  you should have been here a year ago.’ There could be no greater illustration of the strength of the movement than the fact that Blairites feel the need to be publicly humiliated, in the hope of gaining back some of the ground they have lost.

Indeed the change in Carlo’s father, Giuliano, a long-time DS member, is part of the same process. Soon after his son’s death he publicly embraced the Genoa police chief in a gesture of reconciliation. But the more details which have emerged about all forms of repression meted out in Genoa, the more radical he has become. Last Saturday he was asked whether he would have dragged his son away from the clashes in piazza Alimonda. ‘If I had the same age as Carlo, I would have done the same. It was an act of courage and solidarity towards others and towards himself: he had seen some horrendous acts of injustice. A 20 year-old boy who has a strong idea of justice can’t be stopped.’

After the sirens, the applause and the balloons, the demonstrators raised a collective glass of red wine to Carlo, and then finally moved off. Slogans included ‘our future isn’t a commodity’, ‘Genova libera’, ‘Carlo is alive and is fighting through us’, ‘There are thousands of us  you’ll never stop our strength’, as well as choruses of ‘Bella ciao’.

Many people marching weren’t in Genoa last year. 18 year old Federica said: ‘If I had come last year I would have been an individual  now I am part of a Social Forum.’

150,000 marched triumphantly to Palazzo Ducale, the summit venue where the G8 leaders met. Sergio from the deep south town of Ancona said: ‘And this is a movement in crisis?’

Genoa 2002 was a big step forward, just as Genoa 2001 was. This time Blairite and trade union leaders were forced to come, with tails between their legs. The CGIL had told its members to just join the final rally in Palazzo Ducale so as to avoid mixing with ‘extremists’, but many workers went on the whole march from piazza Alimonda. The sense of confidence workers are gaining in general strikes is feeding in to how they feel they should relate to the anti-capitalist movement.

Everyone in Genoa this year agreed on one thing: this wasn’t a commemoration, it was just a dress rehearsal, a stop-off point, for an even bigger mobilisation at the European Social Forum, to be held in Florence this November.

The last word goes to Carlo’s mum, Haidi: ‘What is at stake is the equilibrium of the planet, along with all the people who inhabit it, its animals, plants, the sea, the land, the air we breathe, the art and culture built up over millions of years  the billions of people who have patiently and tirelessly created it. We can’t just abandon everything to the drabness of indifference, the arrogance of a few men, or the stupidity of blind greed.’
Site commemorating Carlo
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