made progress, despite the violence | What
the summit agreed | The
groups behind the protest | Father
of dead protester 'sorry' for policeman
Elliott: beaten and arrestedMY
mistake was climbing up on a wall to get a better view of the battle
between protesters and police struggling to contain them in Genoa as
world leaders held the G8 summit nearby.
I was taking in the infernal scene of a water cannon truck
cleaving through clouds of tear gas when I felt a massive blow to
the back of my head. For a second my vision whited out. I had been
hit by a police truncheon.
"Giornalista inglese!" I shouted at the dozen police who,
clad in full riot gear, were running towards me. My mind was
reeling. More truncheon blows rained on me. "This is a mistake.
They'll stop soon," I kept thinking.
They didn't. Since I had joined a band of demonstrators as an
undercover reporter perhaps it was not surprising. Two policemen
dragged me along the ground, shouted at me in Italian and then hit
me some more. My cycling helmet disintegrated under their blows.
Truncheons whacked my back, arms and shins.
They dragged me over railway lines towards a signal box where I
was ordered to put my head on a steel rail. I tried to obey, unable
to believe this was happening. Gripped by fresh impulses of
violence, they started kicking my head, back and legs.
Repeatedly they pushed me to the ground for a fresh pasting. Then
I was roughly pulled up on to my feet. Police took turns to yell
abuse while one cuffed my hands behind my back and frog-marched me
down the track to the railway station.
I was overjoyed when a senior officer walked past and said
something like: "Resisting arrest with violence. Take him to the
War on the streets: rioters push over a police van.
In the aftermath of hte fighting, smashed phone boxes and burnt-out
vehicles lined the streets
My relief was premature. As a squad of riot police filed past us,
one of them jabbed me in the stomach with his truncheon and, while I
was bent double, another said: "Let him eat potatoes." From
somewhere I recalled that the phrase "mangiare patate" was
Italian police slang for beating the living daylights out of
It was not quite what I had in mind when I joined a convoy of two
coaches organised by Globalise Resistance - an anti-capitalist group
- that set off from London last Thursday.
Nearly half the protesters on my bus belonged to the Socialist
Workers party (SWP) and the rest to various unions. They wore
T-shirts proclaiming: "Team Marxism" and baseball caps emblazoned
with "Unison" and the T&G logo.
Many were in their teens and twenties, sporting beards,
dreadlocks, combat trousers and dirty trainers. Some, such as Colm
Bruce, seemed to have spent a lifetime working for left-wing causes.
He was leading a group of 10 Irish SWP members and is writing a
book on shootings by the British Army in Northern Ireland.
"I feel like a Spitfire pilot about to go into battle," said Max,
a T-shirted student with a goatee beard and cropped hair.
Everyone was in high spirits. Dave, a youth worker from
Nottingham with a SWP scarf covering his head, pulled on a latex
Tony Blair mask and waved at passing traffic.
Many passengers were veterans of political demonstrations. Dave
Ramsden, a tough-looking hard-leftist in his forties from Bradford,
boasted about his exploits at the Prague anti-capitalist protest
last year. "We got the opera closed down," he said. "We surrounded
it so no one could get in. Then we had a beer."
Bruce held uncompromising views on police casualities. "They are
racist, sexist, violent scumbag bastards," he said. "I know coppers
who've been injured and they deserve everything they've got."
By contrast John, from Liverpool, who works for an
anti-capitalist group called Humans Not Profit, emphasised the need
to avoid violence. "The thing is to be low-key," he said. "Leave the
heavy stuff to people like Ya Basta [the Italian militant
anti-capitalist group] or to people who have gone over and trained
John had visited Ya Basta in Milan recently to talk about
strategies for occupying disused properties and also about tactics
for Genoa. Other protesters said "rebel groups" from Britain had
travelled to Italy to train for the Genoa protests.
As to exactly why they were heading for Italy, many were vague.
They were apparently impelled by a desire simply to vent their
dislike of big business, the power wielded by the most economically
successful nations and the Blair government's lack of interest in
John Worthington, a thick-set man from Birmingham with tattoos on
his arms, said: "I'm going for an adventure." He added: "It's about
everything. But if it all goes off, I'm going to run. But if the
police hit me then I'm going to hit back."
At Dover our baggage was searched and our pockets checked. The
first drama was to take place at Calais.
French customs officers searched our bags and kept us waiting for
two hours before one passenger was deported back to Britain when a
Russian gas mask was found in his baggage. We loudly sang The
At the Italian customs post at Bergamo, there were random
searches and two passengers were refused entry.
As we approached Genoa, Bruce filled us in on direct-action
tactics. "The aim of today's demo is to break into the red zone," he
said, referring to the inner area of the city where the G8 leaders
were sealed off. "The only way of preventing the summit going ahead
is militant, non-violent direct action. You link arms, do things
collectively and march against the police line, push against it if
you feel that's appropriate. We sit down, link arms and don't let
anyone get arrested."
At Genoa we made it to a "peace area" in the hills above the
harbour, where hundreds of British protesters were milling about in
Then the news spread: there was trouble in the city centre -
riots, some said. I ran down the steep alleys and streets to the
Brignole railway station, planning to take a quick look and then
return. I found the aftermath of a riot, marked by pungent tear gas,
smashed phone boxes, burnt-out cars and trucks lining a wide street.
Seeing activity 200 yards away, I put on my cyclist's helmet and
walked over to an arena flanked by hundreds of police in helmets,
masks, body armour and shields, with press photographers roaming
about. A huge roar came from the other end of the street. I ran
towards the noise, pulling on my swimming goggles and cyclist's
anti-smog mask. I could make out hundreds of brightly coloured
figures descending a steep street. A blizzard of stones and rocks
flew towards a group of police.
These were the Italian anarchists - teenagers and
twentysomethings, many wearing foam body armour, helmets, combat
trousers or ice-hockey masks.
Prepared for battle: a helmeted protester, engulfed by
tear gas, hurls stones at police. Photograph: Nick
CornishA pattern developed over the
next half an hour. Protesters surged forward, throwing rocks and
smashing up phone boxes and dust carts, before police could fire
tear gas, forcing the protesters, eyes and lungs burning, back into
other streets. There they would douse their faces with water, lemon
or vinegar. Tear gas doesn't just restrict your breathing but sticks
to your skin, irritating it like a dose of sunburn.
Then a carabinieri van hurtled into the street, lights flashing
and horn blaring. Immediately, half a dozen heavily armoured
protesters set upon it, smashing windows with rocks and sticks.
After two minutes a masked protester was standing on top of it
waving a hammer and sickle flag; within five minutes it was on fire.
Spurred on by this, protesters began to run forward and throw
more rocks at the 100-strong police line, some pushing dustbins
forward to use as shelter. Others appeared with huge plastic
shields, 5ft x 10ft and backed with scaffold frames. They dashed
forward behind these every few seconds to hurl more rocks at the
What had seemed like only a couple of hundred protesters had
swollen within half an hour to several thousand. They swarmed around
the streets and stations, standing on cars to get a better shot with
Teams in makeshift medical clothing bandaged those injured by the
flying masonry. No sooner had the tear gas dispersed than protesters
a little further down the street hurled the canisters back at the
police. The officers, in turn, inched forward behind their shields,
picked them up and threw them back again.
In the midst of this mêlée, the death of a young Italian
anarchist was witnessed by Nick Cornish, a 35-year-old photographer
who captured it on camera yards away.
All day, he had pursued groups of protesters careering through
side streets, some brandishing weapons and with their faces masked.
"I had been running from one square to another. There was a lot of
confusion," he said.
Cornish watched two carabinieri vehicles manoeuvring on a main
steet that had been blocked by overturned dustbins. As a handful of
protesters closed in on one vehicle, he aimed his camera from some
steps - the only vantage point.
"I saw these two police vans and one of them was in trouble. I
heard a couple of shots but I did not realise what they were at the
time. I noticed someone under the vehicle and then the car drove
over him and drove away. It was obvious he was dead."
This was about the time that I ran into trouble, receiving
beatings that turned my arms and back a technicolour hue.
It was not until I was marched to the police station that the
mood calmed. After 10 minutes they took the handcuffs off and it
became clear how frightened they were, too. I was taken to wash and
a policeman poured antiseptic on a deep cut in my wrist caused by
The clock ticked by. Every time a policeman I had not seen before
entered the office, he looked at me as if he wanted to bash a chair
over my head.
Two-and-a-half hours after I was hit on the back of the head, the
chief undercover officer said I could go. Before I left, another
prisoner, a long-haired, skinny teenager who sat on the floor, his
hands bound behind him, mouthed silently: "Help me. Get a lawyer." I
On the way out, I recognised one of the men who had beaten me up.
He told me in a friendly fashion to hold my press card up at all
times and look all around me as I walked. As advice it was rather
page: We made progress, despite the violence