Global Policy Forum

Police Hit Hard at Core of Dissent -


By John Vidal

July 23, 2001

The police raid began at midnight on Saturday with the city of Genoa calm, the streets clear of protesters, and the barricades and burnt out cars cleared away. An estimated 200 police in 40 vans blocked off Cesari Battisti Street. One group headed for the Diaz secondary school which had been loaned to the Genoa Social Forum, organizers of the protest, and was being used as a dormitory by about 50 people. The other group headed for the building opposite - the forum's headquarters and administrative center.

Markus, a 25-year-old social worker from near Berlin, was asleep on the floor of the school. He woke, he says, to shouts and screams, doors being broken down and the police charging in. "There were no anarchists there. We were all peaceful and non-violent.

"They burst into the room wearing black masks, started throwing things at us. They smashed computers and started beating people in their bags. Five of us rushed upstairs and climbed out of a window and then down a drainpipe. But the police were there.

"They told us to lie on the ground and then they started beating us with truncheons and kicking. Three of them beat me for two, perhaps three, minutes. I though they were going to kill us. Two of my friends were very badly hurt in the head; there was blood everywhere."

Fifty-one people, none of them police, were injured, 31 were taken to hospital, and three required surgery.


Yesterday morning, as Amnesty International agreed to investigate, the school had pools of dried blood over its floors and walls. Within an hour of the raid, leaders of the Genoa Social Forum, MPs, lawyers and doctors had gathered outside the building. "We saw people being led out with broken legs, arms and noses. There was blood everywhere. One man was lying on the ground in a pool of it. The protesters, just kids, were trembling in fear", said Francesco Martones, Green Party senator for Genoa.

Vittorio Agnoletto, leader of the Social Forum, said: "They refused everybody access. They didn't want us to see what was happening. They refused to show us their legal authorization to enter the building. There was no one in authority to talk to. They beat us, too.

"We went to the hospital. I am a doctor. I saw injuries consistent with intent to administer as much pain as possible. The director said that the police had taken it [the hospital] over. He said two people had traumas and compression, one man was paralyzed down one side of his body and two men were still unconscious. The nurses, everyone, were very scared."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the street, dozens of policemen had gone into the Social Forum's headquarters. "There were not many people there," said Francis, an Englishman. "They came in swearing, broke computers. We put our hands up and tried to hide."


A spokesman for the Social Forum said: "They took away documents, witness statements of police brutality, lists of lawyers, video evidence collected against people for the violence in the past few days."

Yesterday the police claimed that the school building had been occupied by the "black block" of protesters known to have caused much of the damage in Genoa for the past three days. But at an impromptu press conference they refused to answer allegations of brutality or illegality. "We have no comment", a spokesman said.

Mr Agnoletto said: "We believe that this was a well organized attempt to discredit the protests against world leaders. There were clearly two operations - one to suggest to the public that they were trying to crack down on the black block, the other to make sure they took away incriminating evidence against themselves."

Yesterday protesters still in town were furious. "Why did the police not go to the places everybody knew the black block was camping? They could have come into either of our buildings peacefully and without problem, yet they chose not to go after the perpetrators of real violence. This is not my country. I don't want to see this," said Maria, an Italian student at Rome university. "I am ashamed of what has happened."

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