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Police raid protester's camp
by Ali, 22nd July 2001
Following Friday's massive action in which the authorities were seen to have lost control of huge tracts of Genova, yesterday the police wanted payback. Following Thursday's protests, Thursday night was extremely tense.
Police blocks and barricades were in evidence on every street corner. The mood was tense and angry following the killing of one protester.
Rumours flew thick and fast - information and disinformation added to confusion. One rumour suggested that Berlusconi had given the order for every black block activist to be rounded up with any means necessary. Whether this is true or not, events on the ground appear to bear this out.
Police raided protester camps with extreme force although most of the black block had already left. a park where they were also apparently based was also charged with tear gas while people were sleeping.
Again the black block were nowhere to be seen and, not for the first time, the people bearing the brunt of this were peaceful activists. Rumours of a raid on the media centre, situated above the main protest centre on the waterfront, persisted all night.
Busses were cancelled and the constant police harassment and violence throughout the night, made movement impossible. Most protesters slept on the waterfront - others, including me were in the media centre.
Walking through the city at 6am of Friday was like being under martial law. Police were preparing for the march to come.
Buildings opposite the main protest centre were still smoking and burnt out cars were stacked up in the road. Sea container barricades were every where, and the police were moving around their heaviest machinery - water cannon, armored bulldozers and armored cars were all present in numbers.
The march starting at 2pm started peacefully, but tensions were understandably high after the fatal shooting of a protester on thursday.
As the march reached the water front a number of activists wearing helmets and masks peeled off the main column to attack a huge police line. Predictably dozens of tear gas canisters were thrown as the police held their line.
Sporadic attacks continued for about an hour, until reports suggest the police charged. Protesters quickly made barricades and more cars were set on fire. Within another hour building were alight and the police had split the march in two, blocking the militant activists from the front of the march.
The stand off lasted for some time as the march continued on the planned route. On either side of the route sea containers blocked the demonstrators in to the route. Behind these walls were huge numbers of police facing into the march.
I moved behind police lines just above Piazzale Kennedy where the main clashes were taking place at that time. On one side street about 50 peaceful protesters had climbed over the wall to be face with two water cannon trained at them about 30 metres away.
After 15 minutes, most had dissipated leaving ten men with no protection, sitting in the road singing peace songs. In the police lines, plain clothes police began to emerge wearing smart casual clothes (one woman was sporting a Dolce & Gabbana outfit) and with police batons and helmets.
The protesters were now on lying on their bellies, slowing crawling closer to the police line of riot police. The police appeared pretty relaxed but the water cannon were being revved up abd it was clear they were preparing to strike.
After about another 10 minutes the plain clothes police swept in from the side swiftly and brutally. Each protester was beaten, kicked and punched by at least four policemen. All were injured - one had his skull cracked by his eye - his face literally smashed.
Moving on behind police lines, I found a further two water cannon moving into positions beyond brignole station -the epicentre of thursday's actions.
The water cannon were moving through tunnels and through burning barricades to reach sporadic showers of rocks from other well-protected activists. Unlike Thursday, however, the protesters did not seem to be in organised groups.
Tear gas was used and a number of activists were defiantly dancing around the bursts of water cannon. After an hour or so the skirmishes died down as people met up with coaches leaving the city by the march's destination point.
From other reports it seems that the majority of the march was peaceful although it suffered continual police harassment.
Several groups broke away to siege the red zone. The pink block entrenched themselves on one section, complete with a samba band.
At least two other groups scored similar successes. The tute bianche were late to the scene however, and failed to make an impact on these actions.
According to some reports the tute bianche split into smaller groups and pitched running battles with the police using street furniture to block police in and temporarily encircle them. Yet reports of police reprisals centred on the peaceful protesters.
By the evening as the number of protesters dwindled, it was clear the police were planning retribution.
Throughout the evening reports came in of raids, all violent, and arrests. Many people, including press were being taken from the streets for no reason and either beaten or arrested, but normally both.
At about 11pm I was in a bar around the corner from the media centre when we were told to get inside and pull down the shutters, the police were outside in force and only due to the bar owner negotiating with them did we escape a raid.
As we kept down we heard at least ten ambulances go past. A little later when it was safe to go out, we found the media centre and the school next to it in a stae of turmoil. Riot police were lined up 100 metres down the road.
The riot police, falsely suspecting that the school was full of black block members made a charge on the crowd milling between the two buildings. People ran into either buildings and blocked themselves in.
In the media centre, the police lined people up and searched them. Hard drives, disks and cassettes were taken from the Indymedia centre on the third floor.
No-one was hurt in this building although one Indymedia member was badly beaten in the street.
In the school opposite, however, things were different. The police swept in and beat everyone in their senseless. They were sleeping. And they were not black block. And in stark contrast to police reports, they were not injured earlier in the day.
The first twenty people left in ambulances, the walking wounded were dragged out in handcuffs. Dazed people talked of plain clothes police. Several people mentioned one police woman wearing a Dolce & Gabbana outfit.
Later on entering the building, I was greeted by something so horrific it seemed surreal. Everything was smashed - windows cupboards, personal possessions strewn across the floors. Thick dried pools of blood were everywhere.
Most outside were to shocked too be angry, just dazed and broken.
Today, there is a sense of anger and uncertainty, most are leaving. A few will stay but no one knows what the police will do tonight.
Most left, including myself, will be easy pickings, if the police feel like some more trouble. Apparently anyone wearing black is being picked up by the police on the streets today - I'm handily in green today, in case you were wondering.
Meanwhile the clean up operation in the city begins. Shops are opening up and the police are far less evident than they were. The detritus from two days of protest are everywhere, from burnt out cars, and broken glass everywhere. About 200 people have so far been arrested.
But the events here have been so momentous, that it'll be some time before we can reflect on them.
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