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Von: Gunsch
02.08.2001 14:47

Genoa eyewitness report

Eyewitness report on Police brutality against pacifists on July, 20th in Genoa

On July, 20th 2001, the siege day, I was with the "Pink-Silver Block". In this report I aim to describe how we, a thoroughly peaceful and harmless mass of people, were met by an indescribable brutality of the Police forces on Piazza Manin and earlier.

After a loud but peaceful procession from Piazza J.F. Kennedy we reached Via Assarotti (the street that leads from Pizza Manin straight into the red zone in a south-western direction; both Piazza Manin and Via Assarotti were occupied by the pacifist blocks). There was some confusion as to where we were heading and where Piazza Manin was. After a while part of the group, including myself, joined an Italian group that was trying to - more or less symbolically - "destroy" the fence by attaching ropes to it and pulling until the rope snapped. There was a lot of Riot Police behind the fence so even if we would have got rid of the fence it was clear to us and the Police that we wouldn't have represented any danger to the red zone. However, after only a few minutes, without any kind of warning, a water canon was used to get the people off the fence - spraying the people right into the face. It wasn't hard enough to break people's bones but f. ex. for people with sensitive eyes it was a really dangerous situation, especially as they didn't give us any kind of warning.

After a while, people were moving to another part of the fence which was situated only about 50 metres from the one in Via Assarotti in a north-western direction. I had hardly reached the fence when Police - again without warning - started shooting teargas bullets from behind the fence into the crowd. People ran back to Via Assarotti, only to return after the teargas had gone. Again, teargas was used, this time from both sides of the small square. There was also Riot Police coming from the north but whether they were beating people I couldn't see as the air was heavy with teargas.

In all this running around I had lost my group. I decided to walk up Via Assarotti towards Piazza Manin to look for them. On both Via Assarotti and Piazza Manin there were thousands of pacifists, having a sit-in, making music, letting balloons rise with banners attached to them etc. - a very peaceful atmosphere. People in T-Shirts and Shorts, people of all ages. At about 3:30pm, on Piazza Manin, part of the Pink-Silver Block came together for a meeting to decide what to do next. I still couldn't find my group. I used the time of the meeting to dry my clothes and to eat something. About ten minutes later, people dressed in black entered the square and moved right through its middle. They had drums, part of them were marching! They surely did not look like anarchists! As they intended to enter Via Assarotti, many of the pacifists formed a line to stop them. The next thing I remember was that a teargas bullet came down right next to me. At first I couldn't believe what I saw as I thought of Piazza Manin as being the quiet, the pacifist place. I was still pretty much undressed so before I could run I had to get into my shoes which cost precious time. A mass panic developed. There were massive amounts of teargas being shot into the square and thrown from a helicopter. I, and many other people (including a German Police leader who saw the scenes on TV), later said that it was a miracle that in this mass panic with thousands of people just trying to escape from the square, nobody was killed.

Teargas was so heavy that I couldn't open my eyes most of the time. I just tried to run in the direction of a street that was leading from Piazza Manin to the west, the one next to Via Assarotti (I cannot remember the name). Unfortunately, I ran into the wall between the two streets so I had to run along this wall to get to the street. There the first Riot Cops appeared. They had formed a kind of line in front of the wall and they were beating every person that ran past, everything that moved. It was here that I was hit hard on the head and shoulder for the first time. I was also hit by a teargas bullet on my right leg.

Suddenly, I heard a woman screaming right next to me. She was lying with her back on the ground and she was facing two Cops that beat the shit out of her. They were hitting her right in the face. Without thinking I pushed one of the Cops as hard as I could and tried to give the woman time to escape. Unfortunately, there were also Cops behind me who started hitting me on the head so I panicked and just ran away without knowing what became of the woman who was, as I think, still lying on the ground when I left.

Eventually, I reached the street. A whole mass of people were running down this street, trying to escape the Police by running into small lanes or stairs that went off the street to the left and to the right. Police kept on firing teargas into the crowd even now that everybody had run away from the square. I ran after a group of about 15 Italian and French pacifists who entered a small lane to the left. There was no time to think where to go. We hoped that the Police would go after the "Black Block" (?) part of which was also running down the same street - especially as the lane we had entered turned out to be a dead end.

I turned around. About 8-10 Riot Cops had followed us into the lane. They approached us in a normal walking speed. While the "Black Block" was running down the street the Cops were taking plenty of time to persecute pacifists. By now it was clear that they were after us, not the "Black Block". It took about 20 seconds for them to reach us so there was enough time for them to realise that we were absolutely peaceful and harmless. We were standing with our backs to the wall, hands raised, everyone in the group was very obviously peaceful.

I looked into the eyes of one of the Cops (the only part of their body that was visible due to the gas masks etc.) and tried to show him with hand gestures that we represented no danger to them; there was no other way to communicate, again due to the gas masks. Maybe this was a mistake but there was no time to think. The Cop looked at me and my raised hands for a few seconds, then he hit my right wrist really hard with his truncheon. The doctor later commented that it is a miracle that it is not broken. From now on the Cops just lost their heads. They pushed us into one corner and started hitting us on the head before we could even protect our heads with our arms. And they didn't stop for about 3-5 minutes. I just lost track of the time, it felt like ages, everybody was just waiting for them to stop. Anyhow, in all that time there was absolutely no kind of resistance, neither from me nor from the other activists, we were just lying there on the ground trying to protect the vital parts of our bodies. I was hit on the head - and my arms and hands with which I wanted to protect my head - extremely hard about ten times, then kicked in the back (into the kidneys and very close to my spinal column). It was probably due to my fairly dense hair that my head was not bleeding. The heads of the people next to me were covered in blood.

After a minute or so an Italian guy who was lying on the ground to my left started crying and screaming in panic: "Basta! Basta! Basta!" (Enough!) I looked up and saw that he was being beaten on the head again and again by one Cop. But when he started crying and screaming, one or two of the other Cops started to beat and kick him as well as if they were taking great pleasure in him crying for his life. He was over and over covered in blood and had to be carried to an ambulance when the attackers had disappeared.

By now everyone in the group was fearing the worst. I was scared to death. But, very suddenly, they stopped. I looked to the left and I saw that a woman with a video camera had started filming the scene so they just stopped and ran away. The video can be seen on the internet (; however, most of the attack is not covered. Everybody got up, most of us were crying, some had to be carried away.

As my head, right shoulder, back, arms and hands were hurting I decided to join a group that wanted to avoid any more confrontations with the Police at all cost and go back to Piazza J.F. Kennedy. This, however, took about four hours as we were blocked by the Police again and again. They seemed to be wanting to trap us in the city and not let us out. Riots, Cops, teargas everywhere. Still in a state of shock and surrounded by war-like scenes, panic started to grow inside of me when the news of Carlo Giuliani's death broke. I just wanted to get out of there. Then, after an endless seeming time we had found our way back to the sea and could relax for the first time after the attack and see a doctor.

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