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Genoa: first report
by Ali, 19th July 2001
Don't believe the hype - having flown in to Pisa, getting through the airport and onwards to genoa was a breeze - of the gentle mediterranean variety. although the 2 main stations are shut plenty of coaches are bussing people in.
Genoa itself is a biggish port city, similar in size and style to barcelona. but the entire town has shut down for the week - shops are boarded up, car showrooms have been emptied, and you can walk for hours to find a beer.
The Genoa social forum have essentially taken over the city waterfront as their 'citadel'. This is the focal point for the protests. there are numerous information points and the public forums, where seminars, talks and workshops (complete with free translation facilities)are taking place throughout the week. There is also a stage where Manu Chau played last night to about 20,000 people.
The level of organisation is impressive - camping rounds have been set up around the city with vast marquees to house the tentless. About 200 yards from the citadel is the fortress of the red zone.
The Italian authorities have sealed off the entire centre of the city with 3mtre high mesh walls across every entry point. In some places the wall stretches across empty piazzas for several hundred metres. The gates are guarded with dense clusters of carabineri, the Italian national police.
Cavalry police line up in view behind the walls and others lurk behind with battered plastic riot shields. The contrast between the citadel and the red zone could not be more stark. And of course, by barricading the summit in, it is hardly surprising that the main objective of everyone here is to storm the defences.
Across the rest of the city every junction has a contingent of police. At regular intervals a snake of 20 or so police van will speed through the empty streets with sirens blaring. Never have so many been so reviled for protecting so few, as Churchill almost said.
Walking up a road that winds around the headland with the port laid out below, between 150-200 further police vans are visible, parked and waiting in reserve. A few water cannon are also there.
Today, the main event was a march over through the city protesting the treatment of asylum workers. The march looked to be about about 50,000 strong, at a guess - and numbers will only increase from there.
The tute bianche (white overalls) are highly visible - they even held a demonstration at 1am this morning. Up the hill in a school, preparations are underway for the weekend, when amongst other groups, the tute bianche will try to storm the red zone. with the sheer weight of numbers expected this weekend, its by no means implausible.
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