Global Policy Forum

One Dead, 80 Injured in Genoa:


By John Nichols

July 20, 2001

The slaying by Italian police of a demonstrator outside the Group of Eight summit in Genoa was not the first killing of a protester against corporate globalization. Dozens of activists have been killed in India, Nigeria, Bolivia and other countries where anti-globalization movements are, for reasons of necessity, more advanced and impassioned than those now taking shape in Europe and the United States.

The difference is that the killing of one protester and the wounding of more than 80 others in Genoa -- like the shootings at Ohio's Kent State University campus in 1970 -- took place in front of the cameras of western news organizations and independent reporters who transmitted the story to the world.

That is a big difference indeed -- especially when the images raise profound questions about why Italian police thought it necessary to escalate the violence to a level that resulted in a death and in so many injuries.

As a result, the clashes between civil society and the mandarins of corporate capital that for some had come to seem routine have now taken on a new character. Issues of development and democracy that demonstrators have long identified as deadly serious are now more obviously so. And the dismissals of religious, labor, farm and student campaigners for economic and environmental justice by powerful political and business elites sound all the more crude and desperate.

No action by this G8 summit, no matter how noble in rhetoric or intent, will erase the fact that the economic policies promoted by the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia are now so unpopular that their gatherings must be "protected" with deadly police violence.

In Seattle in 1999, when tens of thousands of anti-globalization demonstrators prevented the launch of a new round of World Trade Organization negotiations, Global Trade Watch organizer Mike Dolan noted the irony of WTO officials hailing free trade's benefits from behind legions of armed riot troops. "If what the WTO is doing inside those closed meetings is so great, how come they need all this muscle to protect them?" asked Dolan.

Now, his question must be updated. If the croupiers of corporate capital really believe that restructuring the global economy to limit protections for workers, the environment and human rights represents a positive development, why must they employ deadly force to defend the meetings at which they plot their warped vision of "progress"?

The answer, of course, is that the politicians gathered in Genoa are not "leading." They are being lead by corporate interests that are, by their very nature, at odds with enlightened and pragmatic public interest. And the public is rapidly awakening to this fact. Despite the police violence, the demonstrations in Genoa are already some of the largest protests in history against the neo-liberal, corporatist model of development.

An estimated 100,000 activists from around the world have made their way to Italy to echo the sentiments of former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, who announced prior to the summit that the place for those who seek a just world is in the streets of Genoa. A former G8 participant, D'Alema would have been welcome on the "European Vision" cruise ship where most visiting dignitaries will be resident, or at the "Jolly Hotel" to which the U.S. president has been moved "for security reasons." But D'Alema has taken the side of the future, as dangerous as that can be -- politically and physically.

George W. Bush may say -- as he did Wednesday -- that the activists pouring into Genoa from around the world are "no friends of the poor." He may claim that global poverty can only be addressed by freeing corporations to exploit workers, pollute the environment and reject regulation.

But the numbers of those who disagree with Bush's simplistic and wrong-minded calculations are growing. Peaceful protests against corporate globalization may now be the routine. But they are routinely larger. And the intimidation, the arrests and the violence ordered by those who cling to free-trade fantasies will never be sufficient to silence the cry that has gone up from the streets of Genoa: "Our world is not for sale."

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