Italy plans floating G8 summit to foil protests

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The Independent Online

The Italian government is considering whether to move next month's G8 summit to a secure warship moored off Genoa amid fears that the northern port could become another Gothenburg.

The Italian government is considering whether to move next month's G8 summit to a secure warship moored off Genoa amid fears that the northern port could become another Gothenburg.

With tapestries and antique furniture already being shipped in to the Ducal Palace, the Foreign Minister, Renato Ruggiero, said the priority for the 20 to 22 July summit was safety.

"We need to be sure that there are no innocent victims," he said as the government agreed to meet the galaxy of anti-globalisation groups ready to descend on Genoa. A report in two Italian dailies said the Genoa police had asked for 200 coffins to be sent to the city.

While last week's riots in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, when police shot three demonstrators, rattled Rome and prompted the Italian government to adopt a more conciliatory tone, they had the reverse effect on 700 anti-globalisation groups. "Fine words are all very well but we want assurances from the government that police firearms will not be loaded; they can use batons, tear gas or hydrants but not firearms. The line of non-violence endorsed by us and the other groups needs reviewing after recent events," said Francesco, a bearded leader of Officina 99, one of the radical groups from Naples.

At a packed meeting in central Naples, he told environmentalists, feminists and extreme left activists that they could not "allow members to become sitting ducks for trigger-happy police officers".

They are examining ways to prevent satellite bugging of cellphones during the protests.

Pietro, a fellow activist, a thirtysomething labour lawyer with a sharp suit and Versace sunglasses, said: "We will do all in our power to storm the Red Zone [off limits to all except residents and summit participants]. Whether that means walking on a red carpet, scaling a wall or knocking down a wall remains to be seen.

"We are not mindless thugs. We won't go there to smash windows. If we do any damage it will be against specific targets. Talking about protester violence is a joke, weighed against the violence inflicted on peoples by the world's neo-liberalist rulers."

The No Global network in Naples is also hiring a 1,000-seater passenger ferry and militants will seek to invade the summit from the sea.

Hoteliers in Genoa are infuriated. They have blocked rooms since Christmas and, with less than a month to go, have no confirmation that they will be used by summit goers. Delegations and journalists will be accommodated on the cruise ships European Vision, Splendid and Fantastic.

Many Genoans are leaving town during the summit. A recent survey showed 50 per cent of Italians had some sympathy with the anti-global lobby.

In Gothenburg police rounded up the co-ordinators and left thousands of people in a piazza. "We are not going to expose ourselves to that," said Francesco firmly, "and our instruments of self-defence, if need be, can become instruments of attack."

* The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, won a vote of confidence in the Senate yesterday, clearing his new conservative government's first parliamentary hurdle.

Mr Berlusconi's coalition, which includes the xenophobic Northern League and the once-fascist National Alliance, faces a confidence vote tonight in the Chamber of Deputies.

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