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‘Beatings will not stop us protesting’

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Issue 1760

Interview with people attacked by Genoa police

‘Beatings will not stop us protesting’

“THE POLICE beat people one by one. They worked their way along the line. People were screaming and crying.” “I couldn’t walk after the beating. I had to be stretchered out of the building.” “Then at the police station there was physical and mental torture.” These are the words of RICHARD MOTH and NICOLA DOHERTY, who demonstrated alongside 300,000 other people against the G8 summit in the Italian city of Genoa two weekends ago.

Riot police raided the school they were staying in on the Saturday after the protests. They and 91 other peaceful protesters suffered repeated vicious assaults which left the walls and floors of the school running with blood. Socialist Worker spoke to Nicola and Richard about their experiences.

“WE WENT to Genoa because we are concerned about privatisation and the domination of multinational corporations over every area of life,” says Richard. “We are also worried about the destruction of the environment and George Bush’s Son of Star Wars plans.”

“I went for the political education,” adds Nicola. “It turned out to be more of an education than I bargained for. I was really nervous about the Friday direct action and so I left the protest because the police action freaked me out.”

“On the Saturday demonstration people came out in enormous numbers to protest. People were angry about the killing of Carlo Giuliani the day before, and there was a sense of excitement and defiance,” says Richard.

“After the demonstration we heard about the school,” says Nicola. “We made sure it was an official site where protesters could stay. We decided to go and stay there. Because it was opposite the Indymedia centre we thought it must be safe because there would be journalists there.”

“When we got to the school there was a really chilled atmosphere,” says Richard. “It was calm. People were asleep or chatting. Suddenly there was a huge commotion-teargas and shouting.”

“There were loads of police at the end of the corridor,” Nicola says. “They shouted, ‘Get down!’ in Italian and we all curled into protective balls. “I could hear Richard being hit with a baton on his back over and over again. It seemed never ending. My right wrist was fractured.” Sixty out of the 93 people in the school were hospitalised.

“There was blood everywhere,” says Richard. “Everybody was in shock and absolutely terrified.”

“At the hospital where I was taken the staff were too scared by the police presence to be nice,” says Richard. “They stitched up my head and leg without any anaesthetic. It was only when the police left that any sign of humanity returned. At the police station they made people line up against a wall and kept people awake. When people had to go to the toilet they were dragged along the corridor by their hair. Police lined up and batoned us. There were clearly fascist supporters among them. They shouted about Auschwitz and swastikas, and sang fascist songs.” “I started to hallucinate through lack of food and water,” says Nicola. “When we finally got access to a lawyer she told us that our treatment reminded her of Pinochet’s Chile-it was like a Latin American dictatorship,” Richard says. “The police had a licence to do anything. It wasn’t until Wednesday evening that all the charges were dropped,” says Nicola.

“Even though everyone was cleared of any offence we had to pay for our own deportation, and we’ve been banned from Italy for five years.” Richard says, “The raid on the school was a revenge attack. They were trying to terrorise the movement and the Italian working class. But Genoa showed this is a growing movement. I feel strengthened by what’s happened. We won this round. It was great to read about Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, being ‘ashen faced’ when he faced questions about the raid. No way is this going to stop us protesting. We’re going to continue to build the movement-there’s no doubt about it.”

Blair & Straw backed police

RICHARD, NICOLA and the other three British protesters who were brutally treated by the Italian authorities are disgusted at the response of Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the foreign secretary. “The British government didn’t give a damn about us,” says Richard. “They completely backed the police. The US protesters had access to their consulate from very early on. One German was visited by his consulate three other times in prison. The first time we saw the British consulate was when we were released. I hold Jack Straw personally responsible.”

Straw pushed through a whole raft of attacks on civil liberties as home secretary in New Labour’s first term in office. His Terrorism Act, passed earlier this year, outlawed 21 organisations. It widened the definition of terrorism to include the “use or threat of action” against property in Britain or abroad to advance a “political, religious or ideological cause”.

He also attacked the rights of refugees and the right to a trial by jury. It was only the huge groundswell of support for Richard, Nicola and the other British protesters, and the media sympathy for their case, that finally made Straw shift at the end of last week.

Papers like the Mirror, Observer, Guardian, Independent and Sunday Mirror all backed the protesters and attacked the British government’s lack of action. “We had massive support from campaigners, ordinary people and our union, UNISON,” says Richard. “It was brilliant to find out after our release that there had been hundreds of thousands of people across Italy protesting against police violence.”

“It really kept me going knowing that friends and everyone else were going big-style to get us out,” says Nicola.

United defiance

“AT THE police station the protesters were united. We kept saying, ‘We’re all going to get out.’ There was complete hatred of the police and the state,” says Richard. “People were translating all the time so that everyone knew what was happening. Everyone looked after each other. When we finally got five blankets-for 30 people-we laid three down on the ground. Then we all crammed together like sardines. People with sweatshirts lay on one side without blankets covering them and people with T-shirts lay with blankets covering them.”

Defend Paul Robinson

PAUL ROBINSON, a UNISON union member arrested at the Gothenburg anti-capitalist protests in June, was jailed for a year last week. Paul, his union and his supporters were shocked at the length of his sentence. They are going to appeal.

The judge convicted Paul because of around 20 seconds of video footage that shows him rolling two stones underarm at the ground. There was no jury in Paul’s case. The conviction is another sign of the way that the authorities are trying to clamp down on the right to protest and criminalise the anti-capitalist movement.

“When he was taken to the police station Paul saw TV footage of himself being beaten up by the police,” said Bill Lehm, the UNISON rep for library staff at Paul’s workplace.

“Nothing was mentioned about that. There are pictures of Paul with bruises on his back, arms and leg. Police brutality of the same kind as Genoa happened in Gothenburg. It’s very important that people send Paul cards telling him, ‘Good luck’, and, ‘Keep your pecker up’.”

  • Write to Paul Robinson, Gteborg Remand Centre (Haktet), Gteborg Polis Headquarters (Polis Huset), Box 429, 40126 Gteborg, Sweden.

Globalise Resistance public meetings

GENOA: THE FIGHT GOES ON Speakers include: Antonio Campenni, Italian Cobas union federation and Genoa Social Forum

  • LONDON: Thursday 2 August, 7.30pm, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square (Holborn tube)
  • GLASGOW: Saturday 4 August, 2.30pm, 13 Note Club, Clyde Street

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