Weeks later, I keep reading descriptions of the protests and the savage police response in Genoa. The most horrific is the raid by Italian national police on the people curled up in their sleeping bags inside the Diaz School, one of the buildings set aside by the Genovese government to house activists during the G8 Summit.
One graphic description by Starhawk, a witness who was inside the Italian Independent Media Center across the street from the school, is worth reading and re-reading: “The police entered: the media and the politicians were kept out. And they beat people. They beat people who had been sleeping, who held up their hands in a gesture of innocence and cried out: ‘Pacifisti! Pacifisti!’ They beat the men and the women. They broke bones, smashed teeth, shattered skulls. They left blood on the walls, on the windows, a pool of it in every spot where people had been sleeping. When they had finished their work, they brought in the ambulances. All night long we watched from across the street as the stretchers were carried out, as people were taken to the jail ward of the hospital, or simply to jail.
“And in the jail, many of them were tortured again, in rooms with pictures of Mussolini on the wall” (www.zmag.org). After emptying the school, the police went back inside and attempted to wash away the blood and to hide the evidence of their crimes, but there was too much blood on the walls, the floor, the clothing, and sleeping bags.
It’s hard to find good estimates of the injured, since the Italian press is ignoring what happened at the Diaz School. One source put the total at 100 people carried out on stretchers or injured, another claimed 30 people were in intensive care in the days after the raid. A number of people who were beaten were treated in the hospital, then released again into the hands of the police who had just beaten them, only to be arrested and taken to jail to suffer hours of torture.
Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo describes testimony he took from the detained: “they were beaten, made to stand spread-eagled for up to 12 hours, and those who were unable to do it were beaten again. Every so often they threw tear gas into the rooms or sprayed the kids with stinging gases.
“There was one non-EU man (a euphemism that usually means North African) with an artificial leg, and one sick man who could barely stand on their feet. Some were already injured when they arrived, just released from the hospital, and they endured the same torture. Almost all of those arrested were later released, because there was no evidence of any kind against them. One was a TV operator, Timothy Ormezzano, son of a reporter from the newspaper La Stampa, with an injury to the mouth, who was beaten all over his body. Alfonso De Mauro, a photographer, tells the same story. He has a broken foot, a cracked rib, a swollen face and a body full of bruises…Mark Covell from England has a crushed chest, and Lena Zulke, a German citizen, has a collapsed lung: both are in intensive care.
“…There’s also a police officer from the Bolzaneto barracks who has spoken to the newspaper La Repubblica and confirmed the horrific beatings, with agents urinating on prisoners and extolling Nazism. Those arrested were not even permitted to go to the bathroom and, after hours, ended up soiling themselves. The officer says that many agents tried to stop the brutality. But there was nothing they could do. Those responsible for the injustices were for the most part prison guards from the Mobile Operating Group in Rome. This is a special team under the command of a former general from Sisde (secret services), created in 1997 under the Olivo (center left) government, and there had already been talks of its violence during a raid on the Opera prison. This same agent from the Bolzaneto barracks says the Rome Mobile Division of the State Police was responsible for the savage raid on the Diaz school…”
Starhawk, in her dispatches, adds: “That the police could carry out such a brutal act openly, in the face of lawyers, politicians and the media means that they do not expect to be held accountable for their actions. Which means that they had support from higher up, from more powerful politicians.
“According to a report published in La Repubblica from a policeman who took part in the raid, when the more democratic factions within the police complained that the Constitution was being violated, they were told, ‘We don’t have anything to be worried about, we’re covered.’
“That those politicians also do not expect to be condemned or driven from office means that they too have support from higher up, ultimately, from Berlusconi, Italy’s Prime Minister, himself.”
I would add, too, that they have the support of Berlusconi’s biggest backers, Italy’s multinational business interests. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to: the rights of protesters versus the bottom line on a corporate balance sheet.
But hopefully more and more of the stories of people brutalized in Genoa will appear, the press will pay attention, and the tide of public opinion will turn. Atrocities may happen under the cover of darkness or inside the walls of a police precinct station. But once out in the open, we won’t tolerate them.