From party to wake

For the whole week, Genoa was a city under occupation: first by the police, then anarchist rioters. ?La zona rossa?, the red zone, was cordoned off by a steel fence which was supposed to protect the G8 leaders. Locals who lived inside the red zone were given the choice to leave their homes or suffer imprisonment for a week. Residents opting for the latter could be seen giving money to journalists on the ?outside? to buy them cigarettes.

The first of the demonstrations took place on Thursday July 19 with the central focus on migrant workers. Around 30,000 people attended, the vast majority belonging to political organisations. Very few anarchists were present and the demonstration was allowed to march though its intended route without disruption from the police.

All groups on the march set out together and remained together throughout, apart from the so-called pink bloc of ?fluffies?, who announced beforehand that they did not want to march with the reds. The anarchists did not want to march with anyone. As it transpired, neither of these groups had a strong presence on the migrant workers? march and Ya Basta were still out of the city in the hills, playing at being Mexican revolutionaries.

This first march had a very upbeat mood and a very militant, working class composition. There was a diverse range of groups and campaigns, ranging from the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK, who were given a warm welcome - the crowds cheered and parted like a Red Sea to let them through to the front - to a group of people marching behind a washing line in protest against the local authority charge of 50,000 lire (approximately ?15) for hanging out washing in Genoa; the demonstration broke into applause as it passed a house with washing hanging out.

There was a lot of dancing, singing and generally high spirits. Demonstrators would stop at various points to be photographed in front of the rows of riot police in the manner of a tourist with the guards at Buckingham Palace. The whole event was very festive, but the atmosphere was to change dramatically.

Friday began with several disorganised sections setting off from around the city to different sections of the steel fence that separated the red zone from the rest of the city. Demonstrators were sprayed by police using water hoses. Many of the demonstrators feigned gratitude for the shower, given it was a hot day.

But by the afternoon the mood had completely changed. Anarchists smashed up a bank and were chased into the ?convergence centre?, which was then tear-gassed. Slightly later a separate anarchist group was involved in a street fight with police and - quite impressively at points - got the upper hand. It was at this juncture that 23-year-old Carlo Giuliani was shot through the head at close range when he attempted to throw a fire extinguisher through the broken window of a police Landrover. The policeman who killed Carlo claimed that he had fired his gun without taking aim. He was shot twice between the eyes.

Saturday?s march was the main event of the three days and around 250,000 people were present, mostly Italian and including many locals. The police lobbed tear gas among the protesters even before the march had started. The only ?provocation? being cries of ?assassini!? (killers). Things were united to begin with, but a riot began involving the anarchist black bloc and the police, who then pursued demonstrators across the city.

This transformed the city into a war zone. The riots and street fighting were not contained within one area. The air was heavy with tear gas, everything shut or smashed up, public transport halted. It was impossible to cross the city on foot, as the police blocked all the bridges across the river which divides the east of the city from the west.

A quiet street or square would suddenly turn into a battle ground without warning. Elsewhere streets were strewn with overturned cars and bins which had been used as barricades in previous battles.

On Saturday night the police raided a specially commandeered school (Diaz) where roughly 100 people slept. They locked doors from the inside and brutally attacked everyone. From the outside all that could be heard were the shouts and screams of trapped comrades. There were many arrests, but no lawyers were allowed to see those detained.

Dario Rossi from the Association of Democratic Lawyers described to a press conference on Sunday how he entered the school the next morning. He slipped in pools of blood on the floor. Blood was also splattered across the wall and the whole building trashed. Twenty-two protesters were hospitalised, many more badly injured.

Simultaneously the legal and media centre of the Genoa Social Forum, located opposite the school, was raided. Computers used by lawyers working with the GSF were smashed. Documents detailing evidence of police violence and missing persons were confiscated. Unfortunately it seems that copies had not been taken.

Despite the reign of terror and wanton destruction, many local people supported and in many cases helped the demonstrators. In one case a caf? owner called in those trying to escape from the police and locked the shutters and door until they had left. In another case three young women had been sitting on a wall when the police arrived.

Realising they where trapped, no attempt was made to get away. The police grabbed the women and hurled them over the wall. All sustained broken bones. A local man helped them to his house and allowed them to stay till the police had gone away before taking them to hospital.

Sarah McDonald