Saturdays demonstration against the G8 in Genoa

Saturday started off great. The weather all week had been hot, but cloudy, on Saturday the sun finally came out. The half-empty campsite had been quiet for once, so I actually got a good night's sleep, and yesterday's action seemed further away. Carlo Giuliani was still dead, of course, but that didn't really sink in for me until I'd left Genoa, and saw the photographs in the papers. Genoa, while I was there, seemed part of a different reality - things could happen there that would never happen in Dublin, but that meant things weren't as real as Dublin.

Environmental banner at G8 protest in Genoa

A few of us decided to go for a walk, to try to find some shops and get some food. We walked away from the city, and found another shopping district were there were still some open shops and few signs of the demonstrations, before walking down to the coast road. There we found an open café, with hundreds of people sitting around outside eating. On the road itself, groups of people were already starting to go by on the way to the assembly point for the main march. We were happy to sit in the shade beside the people playing football, and watch them pass.

After a while we decided it was time to get moving, and walked back up to the campsite. The rest of the Irish group had been busy, and had made several banners for the demo. The SWP in particular wanted everyone to stay together on this march, rather than break into political sections - we weren't as enthusiastic, and planned to join any anarchists we met at the assembly point, but we'd march down there with the others. We got moving eventually, and on our way met up with some of the Americans we'd marched with on Friday, and decided to march together again. Since we were planning only peaceful actions today, we weren't too worried about staying together, so when I left there were still some people in the campsite preparing food, or getting stuff together, who planned to catch up with us when they could.

Assassin banner at G8 in genoa

[A Personal report from a Workers Solidarity Movement members of an event they took part in or attended, these reports are posted to the Ainriail list when first written] Note: Pictures are ultra compressed a week or so after they are uploaded to this site to save space on the server.

This is part 3, preceeding this report are On the Black Block in Genoa, On the migrants march, Irish anarchist reports from Genoa

When I left the campsite then, it was with a mixed group including most of the SWP / Globalise Resistance / Gluaisteacht people. It was far too late to get to the assembly point, and when we got to the coast road the main body of the march was already approaching, so it was a question of picking a spot and joining in. The next step was predictable. After a few minutes waiting, we saw the banners of Globalise Resistance (UK) approach, and the SWP members began to join up behind them, bringing everyone else with them. Some people hesitated for a minute, knowing that the British GR is completely run by the SWP, and seeing that right behind GR were dozens of SWP/International Socialist Tendency banners, but by then it was too late to discuss it - most people had already joined the march, so they had to join up or be left behind. So the SWP got another bunch of people to march behind their banners on a demonstration - and in doing so lost a lot of trust, and added to a reputation for being manipulative.

Il social banner at G8 protest in Genoa

We had always intended to join an anarchist section, so our small group stayed by the road and waited for an anarchist section to join. And waited. This was a huge march - almost two huge marches, in fact, because the road was divided in two by a central, grassy strip, and each side had a different group on it. Sometimes there was a trade union on one side of the road, and Greens on the other, or pacifists with their white-painted hands held in the air alongside the red banners of the communists.

CGL banner in Genoa

That was one of the more noticeable aspects of the march, the number of CP members it contained. In Ireland, the CP are a group of pensioners, wheeled out for their traditional couple of demos each year, but here there were half a dozen varieties of CP, and together they were one of the largest contingents on the march. They dwarfed the Trotskyist groups, which in Britain and Ireland are usually the most numerous representatives of authoritarian 'socialism'. Of course they were still very much a minority on the march, which contained so many different shades of opinion, but for me they stood out. It was like watching a military parade and seeing a regiment pass by armed with breastplates, bows, and spears.

JCR banner at G8 protest in Genoa

The second striking thing about the march was the atmosphere. Although this march was supposed to be completely non-confrontational, and in spite of the relaxed mood of the morning, there was a lot of tension on the march. As well as the sizable numbers of people with white-painted hands, there were a lot of people carrying sticks. Many sections sealed themselves in behind lines of stewards who marched with linked hands, behind ropes, or holding sticks between them. Most of all, every time a police helicopter flew overhead (at least every five minutes), the chant of 'Assassini' would go up from hundreds of voices, and a wave of arms would go up to give the police the finger.

Stewards at G8 in genoa

Really though, the most memorable thing about the march was its sheer size. I stood for a while, taking photos of the banners every now and again, and it kept coming. We sat down and smoked, drank some water and baked in the sun, and it kept coming. There was just no end to it. We watched the march pass for almost two hors before we joined in, and even then we were far from the end. It was impossibly big, with all sorts of people, from all over the world. The largest demonstration I'd been on up to now was for the 'X' case in 1992, when about 10,000 people had marched through Dublin, but this was like watching an entire city on the march.

Sharing banner at G8 protest in Genoa

A small FAU section passed us after about an hour - we talked to some people we knew, but decided to wait for a larger anarchist group, and eventually a several-hundred strong section turned up. It contained a fair mix of people - some had their sticks and gas masks ready, and were obviously prepared for a fight, others were equally obviously (and I think deliberately) unprepared. I think most were like us, not really expecting any trouble but with out stuff along just in case. The anarchist group was also much smaller than we'd expected - it looked like a lot of people had already left town.

Anarchists at G8 demonstration in Genoa

We hadn't been very far away from the campsite, so after a couple of minutes walking we were almost at the police station on the coast. This had already been a target for angry demonstrators, and a couple of windows had been smashed since yesterday. As we approached, in the outside lane, the pacifist demonstrators on the inside lane formed a cordon around the station to stop it being attacked again, and there was a few minutes of ritual confrontation when some few anarchists wanted to attack it. It was a bit of a waste of time, on both sides, because the station itself was built into a steep hill, and was a natural fortress - there were a couple of windows near the ground, but there was absolutely no chance that anything else would be damaged. Both sides were arguing over something completely pointless - since there were more pacifists, and they were making a bigger deal over it, I think they succeeded in being the least relevant.

Trotsky banner at G8 protest in Genoa

The next mile or so was fairly uneventful. We were making good time compared to the other sections of the march, at least partly because they seemed to think it was necessary to 'protect' stuff as we passed, but it was still a good distance to the GSF. Then, as we reached the corner of the hill overlooking the GSF, the march stopped, and then surged backward for a second. Nobody was sure what was happening, but all around us the goggles and bandannas started coming out. There were no police in sight, but we had passed some on a sidestreet not too long ago, and after yesterday there was always the possibility that the helicopters would drop gas on top of us. It was another few minutes before we found out what was going on. The march was supposed to continue down the coast until it reached the city center, and would then turn up one of the main streets and continue to the north (staying well away from the red zone). Down at the GSF the carabinieri were out in force, making sure that the march turned where it should, instead of carrying on towards the Zone. But as the march turned into the city, hundreds of people started splitting off to attack the police lines. It quickly developed into a pitch battle, with teargas filling the street as more and more people joined the attack (though the largest section of the march continued away from the GSF, away from the fighting).

CWI banner at G8 demonstration in Genoa

Down at the GSF the demonstrators were slowly being pushed back the way they came (I think that may have been what stopped our part of the march - the people in front of us might not have had anywhere to go). We had a quick discussion, and decided we weren't going to get involved. The four of us didn't feel we'd come prepared for that level of confrontation, having had enough of it on Friday, so we distributed the stuff we'd brought and then went back to the campsite.

Another banner at G8 protest in Genoa

There were some people back there waiting for us, with bad news - shortly after we'd left the site that afternoon, John from Belfast had been arrested. Himself and Conor had left a couple of minutes after us, and were unlucky enough to run into a group of carabinieri. John was carrying an anarchist flag, which was enough to get him arrested, and Conor would have been arrested too, but Marco, the Italian guy who worked in the garage across the road, saw what was happening, and was able to run over and talk them out of it (he was almost arrested himself for his trouble). But John had already been bundled into a van, and they wouldn't let him out, so he was driven off to jail. Some people from Gluaisteacht were staying in the site, and had contacted the GSF lawyers and passed on John's details, but we hadn't heard anything back yet.

Cultural banner at G8 demonstration in Genoa

We spent the rest of the day sitting around, finishing off what was left of the food and drink, packing up our stuff, and wondering how everyone else (particularly John) was getting on. A couple of hours after we got back what was left of the fighting passed by the campsite. A couple of hundred people ran through, followed by drifts of smoke and gas, and were gone. As evening fell, more and more people returned, some having marched through half the city. A few had had narrow escapes, but there were no injuries, and John was the only one arrested that day.

Greek banner at G8 protest in Genoa

That night, Marco gave myself and Conor a lift to the town of Allesandria where he lived, further along the railway line to Turin. We had to be in Turin early to catch our flight, so we caught a train (after being stopped by police at the station and having our passports checked over the radio) and traveled through the night, and spent most of the next day sitting around in airports, reading the newspapers. As we waited in Stanstead we heard from Ireland about the brutal attack on the IMC on Saturday night, and then heard from Italy that Joe Moffatt, a friend who'd marched with us on Thursday and Friday, had been arrested - like John, he was picked up outside the campsite for no good reason.

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