Published Date 1/2/12 9:34 PM
2001 – The G8 Summit in Genoa
I arrived in Genoa a few days before the anti G8 demonstrations were due to start, to help set up the Indymedia centre. We travelled in a tiny camper van with my frend Marion from Munich. The border caused no problem – the border guard asked us why we were going to Italia and we said we were holidaying on the coast, with a knowing look on both sides. Arriving in Genoa the police presence was heavy. The convergence centre was being set up down at the beach. Just a hundred yards away there was a huge police build up at the stadium. After wandering around for a while, we camped the night parked out of sight beside one of the big marquees of the half finished convergence centre. In the morning, meeting up with other groups, we made our way to the GSF and IMC organising building: the Diaz school.
The IMC (independent Media center)
We found a place to stay at the IMC at the head of the stairs, on the roof, which was out of the way, and looked around. The video room was full of techy gear but none of it seemed to be available for public use. The centre was well equipped with computers supplied by the city, all networked together. The techy crew had obviously put a lot of work into the set up. There was Linux on all the computers but with no applications and no system of support to help people make the transition to this “non-standard” operating system – a powerful gesture of what is possible but practically useless. A re-occurring theme in the tec-journo divide.
The video room was a bit of a fiasco – a lot of non-configured private computing kit – most of it password protected, taking up the majority of the space. There were no shared resources and it seemed none of the kit worked in a familiar standard way. An ego wank space with little organised IMC ethos.
Two PCs were “requisitioned” from other rooms and MS Windows was installed (as there was no functioning Linux video editing software). At one of the first meetings money was put aside to upgrade one of these computers to be a DV editing system with a new hardrive and Firewire card. On the other we installed an analogue video cpature card – brought along from CanalB – so we had two shared editing systems. The second of these created the bulk of the video that was uploaded from the IMC centre during the summit – the DV computer broke down on the second day and didn’t work again.
Marion and I headed down to the street to make the first report at the convergence centre. It wasn’t long before we were stopped and detained by a group of undercover policemen while doing a piece to camera outside the main police accommodation stadium – which happened to be right next to the convergence centre. We were held for a few hours while more and more undercover policemen arrived, until there were 10 or 12 police and two cars around us. They asked me for the tape in the camera – I refused – took down all our details and checked our passports – it become a bit nervewracking. I secretly filmed some of the secret policeman. Interestingly we were to see one of them two more times undercover at the counter-summit, and outside the IMC centre before the raid.
Driving round the streets trying to film the red zone barrier going up, we were stopped and detained twice. For an hour the first time and 3-4 hours the second. Arguing with the police and attempting to exercise normal civil rights proved fruitless. This was the first nagging Orwellian feeling that was reinforced over the week of demonstrating. The police were a state in themselves and there was obviously no respect for the role of law in their actions. Fear was starting to stalk the streets, encircling the meeting of the cabal of world power.
THE RAID ON THE IMC
After the shooting of one demonstrator the tension was rising, paranoia about police repression spreading. People began to leave the indymedia center, people began to leave Genoa. There was much discussion of what to do and no firm consensus. Many people made the decision to leave independently until the numbers had halved as the night wore on.
At midnight there were shouts of “the police are coming”. I looked out of the window but couldn’t see anything. People started to run around, grabbing stuff and barricading doors. I ran to find Marion and told her about the hiding place on the roof I had checked out when we arrived. She grabbed the tapes and equipment and headed off.
Looking out of the side window I could not see any police around the front door so I shouted back to the people blockading the door, trying to calm the situation.
I went up to the roof to film the carabinieri breaking into the building next door – a van smashing through the front gate; police breaking the windows with chairs, smashing down the doors with tables they found in the courtyard. Worried for my safety and the video I was recording, after a few minutes I decided to head back downstairs to see if the police were coming into the IMC as well.
After two flights, turning a corner, I came face to face with a carabinieri policeman dressed in full body armour with his truncheon drawn panting his way up the stairwell. At this I turned and flew up two flights shouting, “they are in the building”; past the barricaded door to the IMC and up to the roof. Dodging the spotlight from the circling helicopter I headed over to the window of the water tower and lowered myself in whispering “Marion it’s me”. No answer. Creeping through the darkness with the only light being from the IR beam of my camera, I made my way down through the corridor of water tanks whispering “Marion are you there?” and starting to panic that she was not. A small and frightened voice came back: “turn the light off”. She was hiding in the space behind the last water tank.
We waited. She had brought a bottle of water and supplies. We talked about what we would do if and when the police came. Would they come in and search… would they throw tear gas… would they smash our equipment and break our bones.. these all seemed very real.
The helicopter circled, its spotlight lighting up the window of the water tower. There were noises of movement outside: the police searching the roof. We kept very quiet and still.
We were there for 3-4 hours. There was screaming from the street below and cries of “assassina”. We only came out after the helicopter had left.
There were survivors wandering around the roof top, numbed and in shock. I interviewed two English girls who had been in the IMC during the raid, then went downstairs to survey the damage. Doors were smashed open. Computers were dismembered: their hard drives ripped out, monitors smashed. Across the street there was much worse waiting. Blood had covered the floor, congealing into puddles, and sprayed up the walls. Trails led into huddled corners; clothes lay around in disarray, personal belongings were strewn across the floor, speckled here and there by blood stains. Desolate, dazed people were searching through the piles. Reporters stood in small, silent groups. The trail of blood led up the stairs. Bits of skin and clumps of hair stuck to the walls. Following the broken doors and hasty barricades, looking in cupboards and under desks, everywhere someone could have hidden there was blood and broken skin, the bashing of heads against walls, the smearing of blood stained hands. There was a smell in the building. The Carabinieri had left their mark.