Belfast with Sunshine - Battle of Genoa (Part 2)
Belfast with Sunshine- the Battle of Genoa (Part 2)
By SWO's Joe Carolan from Belfast
Sleep that night was fragmented and difficult, hard concrete and the roar of the police helicopters shining their floodlights on us. A thousand index fingers were raised at the bird in the air, and we learned a new Italian word- "Assassini"- murderers. The next morning, I went to a rally with the French Ligue de Communistes Revolucionaires (LCR), which although having differences with the International Socialists on some points, forged a "network of struggle" with us for the future.
The LCR is very active in the upsurge of workers struggles in France since 1995, and the French revolutionary left get over a million votes in the elections. Talk of a European Socialist Alliance was in the air, as was talk of a new spirit of Internationalism. I was impressed with the LCR comrades, and was glad that theoretical differences are no longer holding back the European far left from taking joint action. Good links had also been made with Italian far left groups, though sectarianism in Italy is still embedded. Hopefully, Genoa will spur the rapid growth of anti capitalist and openly revolutionary socialist groups- the growth of the small IST group Communismo Del Basso being one example.
People began walking out the ten kilometres
for the final march to begin. Our Derry/Genoa banner
sparkled silver in the sun, we used it to blind the
helicopters buzzing overhead. I remarked to an Italian
journalist that Genoa was like Belfast with sunshine.
Rather than walk the whole way out to the stadium, the Irish
rallied at Camp Culchie, watered up, and joined it as it headed back into town. The size of the march was absolutely mind boggling. There were well over a quarter of a million people there, a sea of red flags, green balloons, banners, placards and signs. As more and more Genoese joined, it swelled to 300,000. Huge banners from Greece, Germany, France, Britain and Scandanavia joined those of Italy. At the top, a gigantic orange banner
Yes - G8 No - 6,000,000,000
It is said that when Tony Blair saw this march, he declared "the whole world has gone mad!" , which means that he is the only sane one! There were Dublin Busdrivers against privatisation, FIOM steel workers, Refoundazione flags in their hundreds. Locked out workers from Danone in France, the Piraus dockers from Greece, COBAS and SUB grassroots unionists from all of Italy. The march stretched to the horizon from both ends, the biggest I've ever been on. Just as we joined it from Camp Culchie, it passed the local Carbineri station, where more of the Blue Bloc were wearing riot gear. Comrades had told us this was to be a peaceful march, I had left my goggles (foolishly) at camp. A group of about 1500 to two thousand were now chanting outside the police station- "Berlusconi, Assassini!". Then bang. Bang, bang.
"F#cking hell. Teargas!" shouted Uncle Brendan. It was obvious that the cops were not going to respect the peaceful march. We wound through the streets of Genoa, growing in size street by street, hundreds of Genoese cheering and clapping us from their apartment balconies. Everywhere the police were, thousands roaring "Assassini!" at them. Old ladies waved red flags from dilapidated tenement blocs. People threw water down to keep us cool in the sun. Bambery cracked how he'd like to thank Senor Berlusconi for the shower he'd supplied the day before. The heat was so intense, I think a lot of us would have welcomed the water cannon.
As we marched through the underground motorway tunnel we had ran through on the refugee march, the huge echo from the International Socialists sped through the crowd.
ONE SOL U TION - REV O LU TION!
We had all seen months before, hundreds of people pour through Belgrade, and topple Milosevic in the Serbian Revolution. Two years before, the world had been astonished by the speed of the Indonesian revolution in toppling the hated dictator Suharto. I think now I can get a feeling of just how powerful and exhilarating a victorious revolution would feel like- we did own all those streets! For a few beautiful minutes, a rumour spread like a virus that we had done the impossible, that the G8 had cancelled their whole pathetic charade. We deserved those few minutes of unrestrained joy, people hugging, kissing, cracking open bottles of Italian vino, waving, shaking each others hands, crying with happiness. One day that joy of victory will come to the streets of London, Dublin, Auckland, Paris and Toronto. If it takes me another two decades, I'll organise for it now. And not just a demonstration against a summit- but for liberation from below.
We sang Bella Chow and the Italian Red Flag - Bandiera Rossa:
Bandiera Rossa, Bandiera Rossa!
Avanti Popolo, a la Riscossa!
Bandiera Rossa, triumphara!
Bandiera Rossa, la Triumphara!
Bandiera Rossa, la Triumphara!
Bandiera Rossa, la Triumphara!
Viva Communismo et la Liberta!"
I wish the story could end on this high and happy note, but we were not out of Dodge yet, not by a long shot. The march went deep into the working class ghettoes of the north, where there was a big rally and a lot of speeches in Italian from the Genoa Social Forum. Our Italian not having improved that much in our few days, many of us were understandably restless after half an hour or so, and some of us elected to try and discover the finer points of an Italian tavern. Our affinity group told Uncle Brendan and GR that we were heading South, and we'd meet them in an hour or so.
We'd walked about five minutes through the unbelievable throng of humanity that was still arriving, when Dave remarked that he thought there was tear gas in the water people were throwing down at us to keep us cool. I told him not to be so paranoid, but then got the taste myself. Suddenly, roars went up. "Teargas! Teargas! Mask up! Mask up!"
I wasn't as quick this time, and was badly burned in the eyes, throat and nostrils. Dave and Trish grabbed my arms, and we were back in line again, moving north to the GR rendevous point. More canisters were raining down, the back of the march was one big cloud of blue acid smoke (I didn't know it at the time, but they'd split the monster march in two down by the convergence centre). Choking and gasping, I regained my cool, and got my red bandana over me. Trish soaked it in vinegar- I nearly passed out when I got a full lungful of Sarsons! My eyes were still streaming though- comrades washed them out with diluted vinegar.
Moving through the crowd that was now badly panicked and beginning to dangerously compress, we roared to each other to hold hands and follow the red flags as markers. We got up to GR, where people were gathering around the Silver Bloody Friday banner. Lines were formed, gaps closed, and we marched with IST comrades all around us and tens of thousands of others an alternative winding medieval route to the Convergence Centre. I saw an old comrade from Aotearoa, Grant B, in the line behind me, and my heart rose again. Time for some songs of struggle- and the Irish contingent were not shy. The rattling bog, eight green bottles, Joe Hill, the Genoan Police Force and Ye can stick yer helicopter up your arse were also sang fortissimo and with gusto!
At the Avenue of the Partisans, we were made run the gauntlet. Thousands of riot police were either side of us, swinging their batons, Darth Vader gas masks on. In military fashion, highly disciplined, we marched through them, back to the Convergence Centre where there were more thick clouds of black smoke. Almighty war had broken out down there, all the banks had been burned, every cash machine in the city had been destroyed. I was saddened to see so many ordinary people's cars burned out, but everywhere were smouldering barricades, broken bottles and the rubble of riot. Everywhere, the writing was on the wall. “Carbineri= assassini”
Resist, revolt, Fuck Berlusconi! RIP Carlo. Les gens est plus important que les choses (people are more important than things). I went with my French comrade Jean Baptiste through the smouldering banks and barricades, looked at the smashed cash machines ripped out of walls, graffiti everwhere. Make Love not Work. Another World is Possible. One Solution….
That night, at the Convergence Centre, our guard was still up. For some reason, the police had retreated off the streets. We warned against comrades falling into a lax sense of security, and I told Heather it was always on the last night of these things that most of the arrests and brutality happened. After some wine and talks with international friends, we moved out on masse up to Camp Culchie. Later on, there was a hard session, but people were clearly stressed out and traumatised by this stage, with some arguments between people being blown out of all proportion before being calmed down. A group of us wanted to organise a barricade and security at the gate of the camp, but others argued that now the German anarchists and Black Bloc had left Dodge, we were safe. A comrade told me not to be so paranoid, but I remember someone else telling me that the mass march that day was peaceful and would not be attacked.
Our makeshift barricade would only have slowed them by a minute, but would have allowed us alert the posse. In the end, it was the Indymedia Centre and a nearby school that was attacked, 66 people being hospitalised as people were beaten in their sleeping bags and the school floor covered in pools of congealing blood. Indymedia's videotapes and computers were smashed, and Sky, the website master Eamonn had introduced me to days before, badly injured, suffering from internal bleeding. We were now in a South American republic- the fascist element in the police had gone absolutely insane with revenge. At a vote on the campsite next morning, we resolved to get the hell out, as soon as possible. Unanimous.
Kieran and Joe went out to scout outside the gate. A car pulled over, and a long- haired Italian guy started shouting at them, to get in. Plainclothes. Kieran told Joe, at the count of three, run for the campsite. Kieran legged it, but Joe Moffat was trapped.
He has still not been found in the prisons or the hospitals. When Kieran ran back in, sounding the alarm, we formed up a circle with our gear in the middle. The buses came, and we split, taking as many stragglers as humanly possible with us through police lines. It was now apparent that the hunt was on, anyone left behind risked summary arrest and possible torture in the police stations.
After 30 hours of non-stop travel, we showed our bruises and injuries to Irish TV. Already the agenda was one of protestor violence, but we rapidly and forcefully changed it. Over a hundred of us camped down at the Italian embassy in Northumberland Road, where we held an overnight vigil for Carlo Giuliani, our own disappeared Joe Moffat, and for all those injured and brutalised by the Italian state. The next morning, the Irish cops sent paddy wagons and leather suited motorbike cops, but were met with the solid lines, arm in arm, of Globalise Resistance. The Italian ambassador was not allowed through, and then came walking to meet us.
He apologised for the violence used against us, he told the Irish media that the cop who murdered Carlo Giuliani had been arrested and charged with murder. He said there was a huge and violent debate in the Italian parliament, and that the Interior minister who had ordered the wholesale use of repression and violence against us was facing huge pressure to resign. I went on breakfast TV with Amanda, and we condemned the violence of the Blue Bloc. When the history of the Battle of the Beaches is written, it will be Berlusconi and the Assassins of the Carbineri who will be the villains of the piece.
This week, throughout Ireland, there are Globalise Resistance eyewitness accounts, complete with video footage, photographs and slides, all over the country. Culchies against Captalism may be a light- hearted joke, but it contains a grain of truth- there are meeting organised for Letterkenny, Enniskillen, Dundalk, Maynooth, Tralee, Sligo, Waterford etc etc. The anti capitalist movement is spreading out from the urban centres of Ireland, and has doubled in size since Genoa. The people who met and struggled with each other on those sun baked, medieval streets have built a trust and a solidarity with each other that anything Fianna Fail or the Irish state throw our way can break. If we are to stop the destruction of the environment, the exploitation of capitalism and the power of the World Bank, IMF and the multinationals, then yes, we do need a new Internationale. But, more important, we need to take the joy and strength of Genoa back to every housing estate, workplace, community centre and trade union branch of Ireland, and make our movement grow rapidly in size.
For as the French farmers leader Jose Bove said: "This movement is unstoppable now in both poor and rich countries. We have seen nothing yet".
We Shall Overcome
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