Italian police staged a massive midnight raid against anti-globalisation demonstrators in Genoa, detaining 92 people including seven Britons. The arrests came after two days of rioting, burning and destruction and the shooting dead of a protester.
Italian plice staged a massive midnight raid against anti-globalisation demonstrators in Genoa, detaining 92 people including seven Britons. The arrests came after two days of rioting, burning and destruction and the shooting dead of a protester.
A handwritten note left just inside the entrance of the Armando Diaz intermediate school in Genoa after the raids on Saturday night made an appeal to visitors: "Don't clean up the blood!!"
It has been obeyed and the liquid pools that remained after the police raid on the school, which was being used as the press centre of the Genoa Social Forum, had coagulated into sticky masses by yesterday afternoon. They were dotted among the water bottles and clothing that littered the ground-floor assembly hall where 100 protesters had been sleeping.
The police said 62 of the people taken away had already been injured in the running battles that exploded around the medieval port city on Saturday. But protesters, doctors and journalists who saw them being taken away say their wounds were fresh.
The seven Britons detained were named last night as Nicola Doherty, 26, from Elgin, Jonathan Blair, 38, from Newport, Mark Covell, 33, Richard Moth, 32, Daniel MacQuillan, 35, John Blair, 19, and Lawrence Miles, 25. Forty Germans, 15 Italians, 13 Spaniards, three Americans and a smattering of other nationalities were also held. The 92 are being held provisionally in police cells or hospital. Charges being considered against them are criminal association, possession of Molotov cocktails and damage to public property.
The violence of the raid was evident in the shattered glass, the overturned furniture, the long streak of blood down the stairwell and the dusty boot print on the toilet door. Officers with shields, helmets and batons simultaneously moved in on the school, where protesters were sleeping, and the forum headquarters across the road.
The main forum office looked like one of the banks or offices trashed by the protesters in the two-day rampage. The hard disks of all the computers, as well as videotapes, had been taken away. In the process police had ripped cables out of walls, smashed screens and overturned tables.
As the raid began the protesters' pirate radio station, Radio Gap, alerted activists around the city and their own lawyers, but for more than an hour no one was allowed through a police cordon.
"Carabinieri in full riot gear were blocking the narrow street for two hours. There were lots of young people and most of them badly beaten," said Adam Hogg, an Irishman.
Graziella Mascia, a Refounded Communist Party MP, said: "We saw that these people had recent injuries and many of them had been hit over the head. The police beat them up as they were sleeping." The few residents living near by said they heard screams above the smashing of glass and metal. The social forum's doctors said that when they were finally allowed inside they were slipping on blood. Mauro Bulgarelli, a Green party MP, said: "I tried several times to get past, holding up my parliamentary ID but they pushed us back. We also asked to see a search warrant but they did not present one."
The MP said he felt like he was in a South American police state not Italy. "They have tried to discredit the political part of this movement by saying that anarchists or troublemakers were sleeping right across the road from the Genoa Social Forum offices," he added.
The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, insisted yesterday that the raids proved the Genoa Social Forum, an umbrella pacifist group comprising 750 organisations, was harbouring the violent anarchists who had wrecked the city.
At the police headquarters journalists were presented with the booty of the raid but were not allowed to ask any questions about what had happened. Two Molotov cocktails, a nail bomb in a bottle, two sledgehammers and a pickaxe were seized, along with three mobile phones, 10 cameras and 12 penknives. A police spokesman said an officer had been stabbed in the chest with a penknife and was only saved by a padded breastplate.
A spokesman for the social forum, Vittorio Agnoletto, a doctor from Milan, called for the Interior Minister, Claudio Scaloja, to resign and for Amnesty International to hold an inquiry. "It's not just the G8. This is the visiting card of a government which intends to prevent civil dissent and set up a police state," he said. Dr Agnoletto has called for a protest throughout Italy tomorrow.
The overnight raid further infuriated thousands of activists who had come to Genoa to protest peacefully and who are now blaming the police for mishandling the situation. Journalists and some opposition MPs are also saying the police got their strategy wrong. One critic asked: "How do you explain that these 300 or so hoodlums were able to turn the place upside-down while 18,000 police were here to keep the peace? Genoa is a tricky city with winding streets and these foreigners seemed to move as if it was their home town."
Karen Tanner, from London, said: "The police were enjoying it. I saw one in a tank with a tear-gas gun on top making come-on gestures with his hands to protesters." A woman who identified herself as Viviana said: "They never really chased the [anarchist] 'Black Blocks' with any determination. They simply rounded on who was closest." Viviana was injured when she and other demonstrators were caught in a stairwell by officers.
The gravest accusation against the police is that they had links with the protesters who wrecked the city. One protester claimed he saw "Black Blockers" emerging from a police van.
In Britain, three people were arrested last night when the Italian Embassy in London was targeted by 150 demonstrators. Windows were smashed and graffiti daubed at the nearby Canadian High Commission.Reuse content