Published on Sunday, July 21, 2001 by Agence France Presse
Police in Brutal Raid on G8 Protesters' Press Center
GENOA, Italy, - An overnight raid by Italian police on the headquarters of the
anti-globalization movement Genoa Social Forum (GSF) left dozens of activists
wounded before a Group of Eight summit ended here, witnesses and hospital
officials said Sunday.
The raid on last day of the summit of world leaders began shortly after midnight and ended just before 2:00 am (0000 GMT).
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi fielded several questions on the violence and heavy-handed policing at the summit during the final press conference.
He said he had learned of the police raid only that morning in a phone call from his interior minister.
"He told me some arms and weapons were found, and that 60 members of the Black Block were there who were apparently hiding, and being helped by the GSF," Berlusconi said.
The Black Block is an international militant leftist group.
"Apparently, they (police) could not distinguish clearly between violent activists and members of the Global Forum," he said. "Apparently they were colluding," he added.
The GSF, one of a group of organizations who had met with Berlusconi in the run-up to the summit, had set up offices in the ground floor of the A.Diaz school. Around 50 activists protesting against the G8 meeting were staying there.
"They forced their way in and we lay down on the floor immediately," said Michael Gieser, a Belgian journalist staying in the school.
"They came in, blocked the door and kept beating us with sticks and kicking us, one after the other."
Gieser suffered facial lacerations and said he sprained an arm during the raid. He said that about 15 young police continued to club and kick people on the ground even when an officer shouted at them to stop.
Around 40 were injured in the raid, according to the GSF.
British freelance journalist Mark Covell, 33, was thrown to the ground and held by the neck while four or five police kicked him, witnesses said, adding that Covell was left lying unconscious in a pool of blood.
Witnesses said they saw police washing away blood in the street using water from bottles littering the area.
GSF chief spokesman Vittorio Agnoletto said that offices of lawyers for the movement and the independent journalists association Indymedia were ransacked during the raid.
"This reaction is like Goliath against David. It is because they fear a peaceful, non-violent movement. They hope that we will choose violence," he said.
"This is not the situation of a democratic country in the third millennium."
The Genoa Social Forum is an umbrella organization of more than 800 anti-globalization organizations including anti-AIDS groups, debt relief activists and environmentalists. They staged a nonviolent demonstration Saturday that drew more than 150,000 people.
As a helicopter hovering at rooftop height lit up the street with floodlights, activists appeared shaken and horrified, calling the police action an unprovoked and brutal attack,
"If you can't speak your mind in Europe any more, where can you," said one Irish protester who declined to give her name.
"It's Latin America, it's fascism," shouted a shocked onlooker.
Police department spokesman Roberto Sgalla said "about 10" had been hurt in the raid, while other people hospitalized had been injured in the demonstrations of the previous 36 hours.
Police and ambulances took 26 injured to the San Martino hospital, said chief hospital medic Enrico Cavana.
An hour after the start of the raid there was blood on walls and floors, with windows broken, furniture smashed and personal belongings and books strewn all over.
Police spokesman Sgalla told state RAI television that iron bars, knives, blunt objects and black T-shirts had been seized.
Sgalla said the police had moved in after a "tip-off", while the GSF told AFP that at the time of the raid a meeting had been under way to prepare symbolic action later Sunday.
Members of parliament and lawyers called in to help by the GSF militants were refused access to the building.
The police were looking for film and photographs in the possession of the organizers of the anti-G8 demonstrations which degenerated into violence Friday and Saturday, resulting in one death and scores injured in clashes with security forces, the GSF said.
The raid came after two days of violent clashes between anarchists and police that left one demonstrator dead and more than 250 people injured on the fringes of anti-globalization rallies.
Philipp Stein, a German journalist from Berlin and a member of Indymedia, said he was hit when he pleaded with police to stop.
"Because police strategy completely failed during the two days, they decided to hit back hard," said Stein, referring to the earlier clashes.
Copyright © 2001 AFP