genoa, italy -- "you took your time getting here!" Sky admonishes me at the IndyMedia centre on Cesare Battisti. "I didn't think you were going to get in," he says. "Come on, we have to talk." Sky is a friend, a major fixture on the IndyMedia Web scene and the editor at the Genoa operation. Wiry and gaunt, he gave up a well-paid job to work for a cause he's passionate about. He floats like a butterfly on the movement's chaos, so I can hardly believe him when he tells me he's had enough.
Genoa's Independent Media Centre (IMC) is daunting. The old school building is four storeys high, paid for by the city council and shared with the Genoa Social Forum, which is $20 million in debt. It's beautiful, idealistic and more buzzing than any other IMC I've seen. But activists here aren't sleeping, they're not eating, paranoia is epidemic and a lack of responsibility-sharing is sparking savage rows . "I just want to go home," Sky tells me plaintively. "I'm so sick of pizza and pasta."
We head down to the Mano Chao gig at the seafront convergence space on Piazzale Kennedy to meet Bill from the BBC. Then Sky insists that we come with him to a Sicilian Tutti Bianchi (white overalls) action that he says will break through a police line around their campsite the next morning at 5 am. The southern Italian Tutti Bianchi are famously more militant than Ya Basta in the north.
Bill looks at me: "I know this is a classic reform-revolution moment, but when I call London the producer is just going to ask, "Will there be trouble?'" I shrug. A topless man walks past doing a handstand. "Ah, what the hell,' Bill says. We go back to Cesare Battisti and both manage about 10 minutes sleep.***In town, the ring of steel is now complete, and for every activist arriving there seems to be a Genoan leaving.
Enzo and Patricia from the White Overall movement in Milan's Leoncavallo Centre have just arrived. Both in their 50s, they're critical of Ya Basta's Luca Casarini's pronouncements on the G8. "If you say you're going to declare war and invade the Palazzo Ducale, people will take it seriously,' Patricia says. "If we're non-violent, how are we meant to invade it? It's not credible. I'll wear white overalls today ,but I'm not going to wear them tomorrow."
Enzo agrees: "I'd like to see more more effective networking by groups." This is kind of happening. The migrants manifestazione (demonstration) in the afternoon is a model, with its rap and dub sound systems, brass bands and jubilant gestures. Some activists have painted their hands white in a statement against racism. Others, like the French group ATTAC, are marching with big "%" signs.
"It's a symbol of sharing the world's wealth" Laurent Jesover of ATTAC explains. "It's calling for a Tobin tax on speculators and symbolizes using maths to fight against the market."
The most popular banner is carried by three female students. It says "Silvio, do you like our underwear?" and has a washing line of underpants hanging above it. Years ago, the present Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, came to Genoa and complained that underwear hanging from windows in the old port was lowering the tone.
So as the young women march by, scores of old Genovese ladies rush to their balconies and flutter their knickers at the crowd. A chant of "Utande!' (Underpants!) goes up as an Italian mama hoists her boxer shorts on a stick like a flag. We enter a tunnel and everyone starts shouting "We like pesto! We don't like fighting!" I wish all demonstrations could be Italian. For a moment in the Ligurian sunshine, it feels like everything will be all right.
As night falls, though, a spectacular thunderstorm explodes out of nowhere. In the IMC, Francisco Rojas declares, "I have come to the conclusion that the IMC here is one big circle jerk. There is no thought going into it, no change. Have you tried to raise a subtle point in a meeting? Go on, try, please."
The meetings can be tortuous, I know, but I also know that Rojas is tired, resentful at the amount of work he is putting in unsupported. I make my excuses and at midnight finally head back to my hotel in the storm. The sea, sky and cliffs are as black as pitch, and police helicopters with spotlights buzz up and down the coast. I try to remember the Migrants march.***Everything is in place. The G8 are here. The activists are here. Most of the residents have left, and the carabinieri (military police) are lined up behind the massively fortified ring of steel. Carlini Stadium, where the White Overalls are massing, was flooded out last night, but the mood this morning is celebratory.
White Overalls activists are padded up in foam and crash helmets, and some have made huge foam vegetables to put on top of their outfits. Others dance about carrying foam pig's heads with G8 national flags painted onto the tongues. People are confident, but I can't see them getting through police lines.
Luca Mondo from Milan Ya Basta tells me, "We will do the best we can." A Genovese teacher on the march says, "Of course, there will be violence, because of the police, but I'm not afraid. Ya Basta is doing a good job." He's not a White Overall, but in the blazing sunshine, Tutti Bianchi have decided not to wear white overalls today either.
"Toward the red zone!" a speaker cries, and the 30,000 or so protestors move off behind a phalanx of massive perspex riot shields onto Corso Gastraldi. But a kilometre ahead of us a plume of black smoke is already rising into the sky. Bill and I decide to investigate. "It's the Black Bloc," says an RAI Uno journalist in a neck brace as we approach. "They've been fighting." In a street to the left, overturned cars are smouldering. A BBC team tells Bill that two of their cameramen were attacked and their cameras were smashed as the Black Bloc ripped through. There are no police anywhere.
I head off in search of the Bloc, away from the summit, past a burning barricade on Corso Sardegna, and then follow the smoke. Burning barricades are everywhere, cars are on fire, shops are gutted, alarms are ringing and debris litters the roads. It's like something out of Dante's Inferno. I keep on walking toward the heart of the hurricane.
It's not far away. On a side street around Via Canevari, a paramilitary-style Black Bloc drummers band is marching in circles, carrying flags, wearing ridged bicycle helmets like sci-fi aliens. Around them, some 400 pan-European anarchists in balaclavas and hoods have gone to work smashing up everything in sight -- phone boxes, cash points, bus stops, it makes no difference. Drunk on looted beer, this group find the idea of legitimate targets conceptual to the nth degree.
"Why are you doing this?" I ask an Italian anarchist among the crowd. He laughs, "We are in Genoa!" A rioter on the other side of the street starts throwing bricks at residents' balconies. I don't push the point. All the time, a police helicopter circles above us, but the carabinieri are somewhere else. I leave as the Bloc erect another barricade in the wrong direction.
Back on Corso Gastraldi, the White Overalls march is an island of Situationalist calm as it nears Corso Torino. Then, from nowhere, someone dressed in black tries to run into the middle of the march and punches a marshal who prevents him. There's a scuffle, and an explanatory speech in which I make out the words "polizei" and "provocateur." As the march moves off again, a volley of 20 tear gas canisters is fired into the front row. I fumble for my gas mask as people panic around me.
From Corsa Torino, hundreds of carabinieri charge the Ya Basta front line, lashing out at everyone in a mirror image of the Black Bloc. A woman falls to the ground and two cops baton her repeatedly on the head. There's a stampede behind the front line as people try to save their bones. The carabinieri lash out at anyone in their path. People are running backwards with blood streaming from head wounds.
In the side streets, bandana'd young Italians spontaneously push dumpsters and dustbins into the road for barricades to prevent the cops charging. Marshals stop people from trashing cars or buildings, but everyone seems to be breaking up paving stones to fight back. The carabinieri respond by driving their vans into the crowds at high speeds. Sky keeps calling to ask what's going on, and over crackling phone lines I tell him the area is a war zone.
The ensuing riot is ferocious and focused. The Tutti Bianchi shields reform and for an hour move forward behind the fighters at the front. On Corso Torino, a carabinieri van blazes out of control, but under a barrage of CS gas and water cannon more concentrated even than Quebec the White Overalls are eventually forced back. At 6 pm, Bill calls me to say someone has been shot. Activists there are breaking down and crying or stumbling around shell-shocked."Whatever he was doing," people say, "he didn't deserve to die."
The man was killed at Piazza Gatano Alimonda, but when we get there the carabinieri won't let us through. "Someone has been murdered," a policeman explains. "Murdered?" I ask. "By whom?" He lowers his head. "By the police." In the piazza people are crying and leaving flowers by the bloodstain that belonged to Carlo Giuliani. A line of police across the piazza are lowering their riot shields and slowly melting into the approaching night, like a West Side Story pastiche.
In the convergence space at midnight, I realize I haven't eaten today. There are no shops around to buy food, but I don't think I could eat anyway. An IS speaker on the podium rails, "So now we have a martyr, but it was inevitable in a way. The movement is growing stronger, and so now they want to kill us." I wish he'd just shut up. Cries of "Assassini (Assassins!)" erupt as helicopters fly over.
I bump into Enzo, who embraces me. "We will wear white overalls tomorrow,' he says "because it should be an angry march. Whatever happens, you don't shoot people." People are angry and people are mournful, but it's impossible to call the complex and emotional mood in Piazzale Kennedy tonight: shock, helplessness, fear, resolve, all these and something more that I just can't put my finger on.***The taxis and buses went on strike last night, and after another night on the floor I can hardly walk. Somehow, though, Sky is still bursting with life and expansive about the atmosphere. "Look, there's a lot of anger today, but it's not against the G8 any more, it's against the carabinieri. Our position is to leave the Black Bloc to fight their own battles. No one at the IMC here has any sympathy for the Black Bloc," he pauses, "or the carabinieri.
"I respect what the Pink Bloc is trying to do. They're marching with their hands in the air, shouting, "Please, don't shoot us."' Sky usually grins when he finishes a sentence, but not this time. Rojas, like Sky, is missing the demonstrations to keep the IndyMedia operation ticking over. "Everyone wants to be a star," he says. "No one wants to sweep the floor. I'm staying here because we can't even tell people what time the demonstration is starting. That's how bad it is."***There are Sardinian separatists, Balkan socialists and Turkish communists on the march down the seafront. Most are wearing black armbands, the Italian contingents are singing Bandiera Rossa. Some marchers are angrily chanting "Assassini" at the helicopters again -- but most of the march seems to be taking place in an emotional no-man's land. It's as if the death of Carlo Giuliani has stolen the movement's compass, and we're suddenly somewhere darker and more serious.
And as if by magic, as we approach the turning near Piazzale Kennedy, the Black Bloc decide to party. It's a repeat performance: cars set alight, banks, car showrooms and the Greens' campsite trashed, trees uprooted, fights with the activists who try to stop them. The road is bathed in tear gas, the cops stand back and none of the Bloc's pitched stones go remotely near their lines.
Bill points out two odd-looking Bloc'ers with finely honed physiques who are walking around in shorts and crash helmets, carrying staves. We try to follow them but they suss us out, keep looking around and then disappear. We walk back to rejoin the march. On the way, we see a man in white combat trousers, a black T-shirt and a bandana face-mask carrying a stave behind police lines. He doesn't like being photographed, and we have tear gas fired at us when we try.
Half a mile further up the road, the Black Bloc tag onto the end of the march and begin fighting a desperate rearguard battle against the phone boxes, cash points and dustbins on Corsa Sardegna. A shop under a block of flats is looted, and then someone sets it on fire. "This is fucking crazy," Bill says. "I'm calling the fire brigade."
A British anarchist tells me, "I don't think we should be throwing stuff at the police -- they really hate us." I want to find the Tutti Bianchi contingent, but they've led a peaceful section of the march way ahead of us. As we fail to find them, an old Italian woman asks us, "Are you the good protestors or the bad protestors?" I do a double take. "Next time go to Canada," she says.***It's a long march back to the Cesare Battisti and almost 11 when we get there. Francisco is unhappy that no one will take responsibility for patrolling in case of a police raid. The protests are over, though, and I think a raid is unlikely. "No, this is exactly the time they'll do it," he counters.
Everyone is drinking and packing up, hugging their goodbyes. Everyone except Sky, who's behind his computer doing four people's jobs, as usual. I wander off and don't realize anything's going on until I hear the screaming.
It's chaos, everyone panicking, shouting at each other, running in every direction. The police are raiding the IMC. I make my way downstairs, where the activists are barricading the doors. Rojas is trying to calm people. "Arthur, please go upstairs and tell people this: The situation is calm. Close the windows. Keep the area clear so people can get in and out with information. Have you got that?" Got it.
I start to run upstairs, but somehow there are already police there, wearing jeans, T-shirts, bandana face-masks and crash helmets. About 10 trembling kids are kneeling on the landing with their hands in the air. I sprint up to the IMC on the third floor, followed by about 10 riot police. Everyone is lined up and made to face the wall with their hands up against it. Then the police start searching the rooms. Bill's cell rings, it's a producer from London. "I'm sorry, I can't talk. We're in the middle of a raid." "A rave?" the producer asks. "No! A raid! An attack! I've got to go."
"It's ridiculous," I say to a shivering girl next to me, who like half the people here can't be more than 21. And it is -- everyone knows the Black Bloc campsite is a few miles down the road. I fold my arms, still facing the wall, and a cop comes up and starts shouting at me.
I put my hands up again. Then a fat, unshaven cop grabs hold of my shirt and drags me off down the hall. Bill runs up waving his G8 press accreditation card, yelling, "No, you've got the wrong man. Let him go, he's a real journalist like me," but they pull him off and the fat cop drags me downstairs. Every time I try to move one way, he yanks me in the other and shouts. "Non parla Italiano," I say. He jabs me with his baton under my ribs.
When we go round the next bend in the staircase, he whacks me on my left thigh. Then he takes me back up to the first floor and makes me sit in a cowed line of Italian media activists. I don't realize how lucky I've been. Eventually, an Italian MP arrives and starts shouting at the police that they have no warrant, that their raid is unauthorized and illegal. The cops leave, having smashed up the legal support team's computer, closed down the IMC server and taken possession of a boxful of hard discs, video footage and all the info relating to complaints of police violence and use of provocateurs.
Outside, Sky has been beaten unconscious by three policemen in a Rodney King-style beating. J., a witness, describes how "three cops hit him on the head and body until he was on the floor. Then they carried on hitting and kicking him until he was motionless."
People gather on the street outside, where the scale of what has happened is rapidly becoming clear. In the school opposite that was being used for non- violence direct action training, young anti-debt and green campaigners are stretchered out in a constant stream of bloodied faces and broken bones -- 66 people in all have been injured.
On the first floor of the building, there are pools of blood at regular intervals. O., a witness, tells me, "They lined people up against the wall and beat them even if they didn't resist," and then he breaks down crying so we have to stop. Everywhere, there are tears, tears and blood. In the street, the chants start up. First "We are peaceful, what about you?" And then, inevitably, "Assassini!" These people came to Genoa as pacifists. I can't help thinking that some of them will go to the next action as Black Bloc.***I know now what Sky meant when he said he'd had enough. I just want to get out of Genoa. At the Genoa Social Forum press conference, a film is shown of muscular men in jeans and face-masks giving orders to "activists" on motorbikes behind police lines. There are more and more stories of activists hospitalized after being beaten by police. And yet, when the whole world was watching, they'll have only seen the Black Bloc burning cars.
Luca Casarini, the de facto leader of Ya Basta, tells me, "I don't agree with the Black Bloc's strategies, and politically, I shut the door on destroying bank and shop windows or burning cars. It only leads to destruction and the implosion of the movement. The Black Blocs were an instrument of the police. Not everything was organized by the security services, but they used and helped hooliganism to justify repression. Our response to police violence has always been to not answer back."
But on the July 20 march, Tutti Bianchi did fight back against the police, didn't they? "There was a spontaneous reaction to defend people. We tried to calm them down, but when a girl was run over by a police car the situation got out of control. People who were marching were not trained soldiers."***At the hospital, Sky is being guarded by police. They won't let Bill or me see him or give us any information about his health. We know now that he has a collapsed lung, broken ribs, an abdominal hemorrhage and that he's breathing through an oxygen mask. This, to me, is the legacy that the G8 summit has bequeathed Italy. Genoa is what a police state looks like. It's going to take a long time to process everything that's happened here. The movement has some serious thinking to do.