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street report by Ali, 20th July 2001
The death of one activist and the serious injury of scores of others is the most shocking outcome from a day of massive sustained protest in Genoa.
Maps circulated on thursday evening by organisers indicated the main protest blocks and their plans. The peaceful pink block planned to converge in the streets to the north, overlooking the redzone - the sealed off city centre where the G8 summit began yesterday.
The anarchist black block planned to head from their base in the east to confront police lines in the just in front of the red zone. Later on, the Tute Bianche, or White Overalls, would advance between these two blocks to attempt to storm the red zone.
Tension was already high when protesters began to congregate in the morning at the 'citadel' - the main protest base on the Genoa's water front.
Anticipating, the tute bianche's march the police extended the red zone 300m east, sealing off Brignole station where protesters would be hard to contain but also cutting off the 'citadel' from two sides. Despite this the Pink block managed to converge, as planned.
Meanwhile, anarchists were gathering in a small piazza just in from of police lines. Wearing helmets and gas masks, and armed with rocks and anything else that came to hand, there was very little room for fluffiness here.
About 5,000 had amassed in the square, when another group announced their arrival by smashing a bank. Wearing all black, and waving black flags, this group wasted little time in confronting the police lines.
Police responded by throwing tear gas and advancing slowly in lines trhough the narrow streets. The anarchists retreated, pulling over skips for barricades, and wrecking cars as they pulled back.
The police pushed the crowd into a square where steps up to a road on one side allowed the anarchists to regroup in a formidable position. About thirty police advanced into the square only to be pelted from all sides. Dozens of tear gas canisters were fired and the crowd dispersed into the surrounding streets.
After much milling about, with the odd car being set alight, the crowd eventually amassed at a crossroads 400 meters away. A shop and a petrol station were attacked, but the police were clearly keeping their powder dry for more focused action.
The crowd, by now quite close to the pink block, in the streets above, gradually dispersed, frustrated by the lack of police presence.
One police van sped through the scene to be hit by dozens of missiles. But, for all the violence, the black block were little more than an angry sideshow, offering precious little threat to the authorities, and left to their own devices.
As the Black block were, by now, a spent force, reports suggested the Pink block in the hill above them, was still going strong. In fact by this time, the block had split in two, and were, as it turns out, dangerously vulnerable.
The pacifist group stayed in a small square, only to be joined by a group of anarchists, clearly bored by events below. Police saw this as an open invitation to move en masse into the square. The now familiar wretch of tear gas filled the air, and police were kicking and herding the pacifists away.
The other, more assertive, pink group apparently endured far more sustained violence from the police a few streets down. While the Anarchists were left well alone, the Carabineri were clearly far more interested in targeting the Pink Block.
By the time disparate groups of the black and pink blocks had regrouped, they were absorbed into the vast mass of the tute bianche action.
Estimates put the number at about 50,000. By this stage after prolonged battles outside brignole station, where the protester died , the tute binche were being pushed up a narrow street by the railway. far from being dressed in all white, as their name suggests, the tute bianche, were sporting home made body armour, fashioned from lifejackets,taped up coke bottles, foam and cardboard.
Many carried shields, and of course the obligatory helmets and gas masks that no self-respecting activist would be seen without.
Police were advancing with water cannon and tear gas as the crowd was gradually driven up the hill. The water cannon in a confined space caused havoc and panic, with precious few escape routes for the protesters. Chants of 'Libera Genova' and 'Assassinas' (assassins) rang through the dense streets.
Unbelievably, an armored car was also used, that was driven at speed into the crowd to disperse it. Presumably, this was how the protester died earlier.
Throughout this the tute bianche remained disciplined. A perspex wall was used to shield most of the protesters from the police advance as other protesters tried to pin the police back in front of it.
Over the course of about two hours the crowd was forced about 1km up this road. Other reports from later on confirm that the protesters were driven back to sport centre being used as protest accommodation.
By this time, about 8pm most of the protests had dissipated, although there were a number of skirmishes outside the waterfront. Transportation to the accommodation areas had been cancelled and most protesters have been forced to sleep in the citadel.
Where yesterday saw 50,000 up to 200,000 are expected for tomorrow's march. Apparently, organisers are, somewhat optimistically, hoping the blocks will march as one pacifist unit.
In the real world, expect another red zone action from the tute bianche, more sporadic but peripheral violence from the anarchists, and one enormous column of people that should ensure what goes on inside the red zone is irrelevant compared to what going on outside.
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