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To Serve and Protect Whom?

Michael Borucke

To Serve and Protect Whom? It seems that the word ‘fascism’ is as over-used by those on the left as phrases such as ‘radical extremists’ are over-used by those on the right. But given the events that occurred last month in Genoa, Italy, it’s not an exaggeration to say that fascism in Italy didn’t die with Mussolini. It joined the police force.

Genoa was host to the Group of Eight summit, a meeting of the heads of state from the eight richest nations on earth. As the meeting took place around the third week of July, people from all over Europe went to Genoa to voice their opposition to corporate globalization and the increasing disparities in wealth between first and third worlds.

In an observant, well-thought out blurb backed by plenty of evidence, President Bush responded to the protests by saying, “... those who protest free trade are no friends of the poor. Those who protest free trade seek to deny them their best hope for escaping poverty.” The two hundred thousand protesters who showed up obviously couldn’t grasp the profundity of Bush’s words. Of course, there would have been more people protesting had border guards not prohibited people with long hair, tattoos, and body piercings from entering the country which, incidentally, is in violation of Italian law. In addition, police closed down airports, bus and train terminals, and ferry ports in Genoa.

People may have seen or read about the mayhem that ensued as groups of protesters clashed with Italian police as the summit went on behind closed doors and a 13-foot high fence. What most people haven’t heard about, thanks to the national media, were the unprovoked police attacks upon sleeping protesters.

In the early morning hours of July 22, police raided two buildings, which housed journalists and protesters alike. During the raid on the offices of the Independent Media Center (IMC-Italy), police seized video and audio equipment, damaged computer hard disks, and injured 60 journalists. Such attacks have unfortunately become commonplace during recent protests. Independent Media Centers have been set up across the world by activists and independent journalists intent on creating an alternative to mainstream media. Whether intended or not, the attack by the police made it harder for journalists to get news of the protests to the outside world. Police also detained the IMC journalists within their building just as the raid on the Genoa Social Forum (GSF) began across the street.

The GSF was a temporary housing facility for protesters. It was established through an agreement by demonstration organizers and the Italian government. Soon after the IMC raid, police attacked sleeping protesters inside the GSF. Police justified the two raids by claiming that violent protesters were thought to be hiding in the GSF. During the three days of protest, 280 people were arrested, 500-700 hospitalized. Arrested protesters were denied the opportunity to speak with their lawyers; they have reported both physical and psychological torture within the jails (in one instance, protesters were forced to sing fascist songs, and shout “Vive Il Duce,” or “Long Live Mussolini”). A police guard came forward to corroborate the protesters’ claims of abuse.

Of course, the most astounding abuse of power by police in Genoa was the murder of 23-year-old Carlo Guiliani. Mainstream news reports first claimed that he had been killed by a stone hurled by a protester. The reports soon changed after grim photographs surfaced showing Guiliani and the police officer moments before and after his murder. The New York Times never questioned the use of live ammunition for riot control, so I guess I shouldn’t. Other issues that are too insignificant to mention are the use of inexperienced officers for protests (the officer that murdered Guiliani was 20 and had never been in a high-stress situation before).

If anything in Genoa captured the attention of the press, it had to have been the violence of the protesters. This time, however, the “Black Bloc” anarchists targeted not only corporate buildings, but also small businesses and normal cars. There didn’t seem to be any radical left-wing message associated with the destruction, just chaos. Many protesters have alleged the use of agent provocateurs -- plants sent in by police, dressed up like anarchists -- meant to terrorize and discredit the protesters and their anti-globalization message. These allegations may prove true if evidence now held by an Italian Congressman is valid.

The summit itself was predictable. If you read the official statement that came out of the G8, you would see that economic growth and trade were the major topics of discussion. The text makes passing reference to third world debt. Apparently, the world’s leaders do care about poverty and health. What’s more, our magnanimous President Bush pledged a whopping $300 million to help fight AIDS in Africa. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said it would take $11 billion per year for an attack on AIDS to have any significant result. But the United States government is practicing its own brand of militaristic fascism; the Senate just approved nearly $40 billion for missile defense research.