in genoa | 18.07.2001 23:39
By Frances Kennedy in Genoa
19 July 2001
With helicopters thundering overhead in a glowering grey sky, Genoa lived its first full day of pre-summit siege with its nerves raw.
Police blew up a suspect vehicle, dealt with countless bomb alerts, and discovered an arsenal of weapons in the house of a local criminal near the venue of the G8 summit. The mayor of Genoa, Giuseppe Pericu, received a letter containing two bullets.
Police carried out searches under the eyes of media "witnesses" at the anti-globalisation encampment, at the Carlini stadium on the outskirts of the city, but found nothing.
However when they raided the house of a petty criminal with drug convictions, they discovered explosive devices, arms and ammunition. Police said there was no link with anti-globalisation protesters, but the find raised tensions and fears as isolated acts of violence spread beyond Genoa.
Two parcel bombs were sent to companies in Milan and Treviso, and a work agency was firebombed in Milan. One package exploded in the hands of a secretary who is being treated in hospital, the other burst into flames in the postroom of the clothing giant Benetton.
Trains carrying protesters began arriving overnight from Rome and Bologna in time for the first mass event of the counter-summit – today's Migrants March. Many complained they were being constantly stopped and searched.
A 7km ring of concrete and steel, with 240 strictly guarded entry and exit points, has been erected around the "red zone" of the city where the summit is being being held, and residents were beginning to lose patience with the security. "This is our city, they are making us feel like criminals," said one woman.
At the checkpoints, residents and journalists are asked for ID and bags are put through x-ray machines. Inside the ring, the area is all but deserted, with steel shutters covering shop-fronts and bars.
The protest groups
Tute Bianche: White overalls, their demo uniform, is a symbol of the invisible victims of the globalised economy. Those from southern Italy's "Rebel South" are particularly radical, high unemployment and lack of development making them empathise strongly with the have-nots.
Rooted in Nazi Germany now adopting a radical, at times violent, stance against neo-liberalism and capitalist institutions. Members identified by secret services as responsible for triggering violence in Prague. Italian and Spanish versions expected to be the movers at Genoa.
Anarchists: Strongish following in Britain, Italy and Greece. Active local presence in Genoa where they rioted against a biotechnology forum in May last year. Have not signed the Genoa Social Forum document pledging non-violence.
Drop the Debt: British-based group that has put debt relief firmly on the agenda. Strong following in Italy where debt relief espoused strongly by Roman Catholic groups.
Wombles: (White Overalls Movement Building Libertarian through Effective Struggle) British imitators of Tute Blanche are linking up with 1,500 anarchists in Bologna.