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Death in Genoa
by me 6:47am Mon Aug 6 '01

I tried to help Carlo Giuliani but he was already dead. Here is my account.

It was a human form but it was not a human. Life had left his body, the soul departed, the brain expired:- whatever conceptual or narrative terms you choose to couch it in, for me it seemed and remains an irreconcilable paradox that i still struggle to get my head around.
A human body but not a human being.
my first contact with death.
'After the first death, there is no other..." I forget where i read that, but i hope to hell i never see another like that. Perhaps this is unrealistic, as i believe that neither I nor the rest of the 100,000 people who gatherd in genoa, to fight a myriad-faceted cause (which I saw Carlo Giuliani die for) are dissuaded for a moment.
Shot in the face at point-blank range from the back of a police Land Rover, and then driven over twice, it is clear now that my attempts to administer first aid to him, and my screams for a medic, someone better qualified, were a lost cause. Doomed and futile.
But I didn't realise this at the time because I hadn't seen the gun.
i had my back to the police vehicle at first and was attempting to dissuade the demonstrators who were assaulting it from the side and rear. it had been blocked from the front by an upturned metal buggy-bin, which it had unsuccessfully tried to push out of the way.
The police were in trouble, that I can confirm.That the demonstrators went too far in bombarding the vehicle the way they did is also my opinion, whatever my fellow activists think of me for saying so. That the police response was atrocious, morally insupportable, wholly and fundamentally criminal and- for me no other word is more apprpriate- profane, I have no doubt.
I have no religion, but this in no way lessens my profound conviction of the utter sanctity of human life. A conviction only deepened and strengthened by the experience of this obscenity, this violation.
To reverse backwards, at the risk of hitting Carlo, that I could possibly have understood. To shoot him in the eye from inches away, then reverse over him and drive forwards over him again, that I cannot understand.
From the photographs that are currently (still) doing the rounds of the Italian press and the internet , it can clearly be seen that I am equipped with helmet (jovially daubed with "Wombling Free"), respirator, shield and improvised bodily padding. I consider these reasonable precautions to take on a legitimate demonstration where police violence is anticipated (though they wouldn't have stopped a 9mm round from the back of that Land rover).
a few days before th direct action of July 20, the "civil disobedience" contingent allowed the police and the press into Carlini Stadium, where we bivouacked, to show that we had no weapons, nothing to hide. We made public the fact that we intended to hold a legitimate demonstration (a fundamental right in any democratic society) and that we were taking measures for our own physical protection in anticipation of confrontation from the state.
The view that the black Bloc activists (whose method of confrontational approach differs significantly from our own) wre infiltrated by police agent provocateurs intent on inciting, provoking and escalating violence in order to justify their own measures, has gathered popularity in the light of video evidence. Part of the reason for the failure of our strategy was that the attempts to keep two distinct tactical approaches seperate proved unrealistic given the amount of people and other factors. The immediate and long-term implications for civil disobedience, the White Overalls movement and the "biopolitical" strategy, need to be urgently addressed. Right now, my own concerns are more with Carlo's family and with the Italian lawyer to whom I gave a statement and, by way of corroborating evidence, the clothing and equpment pictured in the photo. Including the trousers I wore, soaked in the blood that spurted like tap water from Carlo's eye in an arc that missed his body and splased onto the tarmac where I knelt, checking for his pulse and other signs of life.
That night, in order to quell the inevitable rumours and Chinese whispers, I gave a talk over a microphone to the occupants of Carlini stadium. During the next few days, for my own protection, I was chaperoned around by members of tute Bianche and the coalition group R.A.G.E. When the call came through that the media centre was being raided by police, I was swept up and taken to a "safe house" in another part of the city. From here we saw the forty or so ambulances that carried the latest victims of police brutality to the hospital.
The next day my new friends drve me down to Rome. On the way the first wave of shock hit me. Hard. It felt like I was on the moon, or on acid. I saw a garden wall, with small, almost round holes, that looked like rows of broken eyes, and it reminded me of something I had seen years earlier from a British army truck in Bosnia.A small village, smashed and burned whose ruined, abandoned white houses looked like a litter of charred and broken skulls, the windows like black, cavernous eye-holes.
perhaps it sounds cliched, but I stared into the eyes of death that day in Italy. I watched carlo's life pour away out of the broken eye they shot him through. His left one, it was.
In four years of army service I never saw anything so terrible. Not even the shocking number of suicides and attempted suicides which barely get a mention.
when i was sent to Brixton prison last year, (for a comparatively trivial incident) I said that if I could get through it without smoking I would have beaten the habit, and I did. Back in my small room in Cambridge now, as the full significance of all this sinks in, I'm smoking like a chimney.
But I have seen only one death, that of a man I didn't know, never spoke to and never will.
So how the hell do people manage to keep it together in countries where disease, torture, slvery, "disappearances" - are part of day to day reality?
we in our privileged, complacent First world societies are all wise and cynical enough to say to one another "that's just the way the World is" wheen we see or read images or reports of atrocities commited in other lands. Images that, due to a distance that is in reality just a few hours plane ride away, we perhaps barely distinguish from the cinematic and computer generated violence that we entertain ourselves with, like gladiatorial audiences of a more "civilised" era.
today, however, reading a copy of New Internationalist, i saw a photo of members of a Domestic Workers Movement in India. women who have gathered to fight, against terrifying odds, the regime that subjects them to virtual slavey and all kinds of mental and physical abuses.
The women are all smiling for the camera, vivaciously, and in their smiles is a relaxed, serene dignity- that emerges despite the system that constantly tries to strip away that dignity, to degrade, demoralise and intimidate.
Their courage and their love for each other positively shines in these eyes.
That is also the way the world is.This is a spirit that surfaces and resurfaces all over the globe, and it is irrepressible.
The Bosnian village looked dserted, except for one little old man who was attempting some slow repair to the doorframe of a house with a trowel and cement. i don't know where they get the strength from, these people. right now I just feel small and terrified. perhaps my vulnerable state is making me sentimental, but I derive a genuine comfort from the inspiration of such people, and a real conviction that another world is possible. I hope Carlo's family find something similar, somewhere.

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