london, england -- if you'rethinking of penetrating the ring of steel around the G8 summit during the anti-capitalist protests July 19 through 22 in Genoa, Italy, you'd better use protection. The authorities have ordered 200 body bags in advance of the demonstrations and have set aside a room at the hospital as a temporary morgue."It's mafia tactics," one Italian activist complains. "As political messages go, it's the equivalent of waking up to find a horse's head next to you." The authorities, though, say they are just being prudent after violent confrontations at previous summits in Prague, Quebec City and Gothenberg. Certainly, the temperature surrounding an anti-summit protest has never been hotter.
G8 summits bring together the leaders of the eight most industrialized countries (the U.S., Canada, Italy, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Russia) to decide policies that affect the whole world. This year, in a sop to protestors, Nelson Mandela and Rigoberta Menchu have been invited to speak.
The language of the agenda, too, has been structurally adjusted to include poverty reduction, conflict prevention and the global environment. Of course, this sounds better than IMF privatization programs, Son of Star Wars and scrapping Kyoto. But it's at the point where PR fails to camouflage the reality of such summits that security scares always seem to emerge.
Is it prudence or paranoia? "It's a dishonest attempt to keep people at home through fear,' Luca Mondo of Milan Ya Basta tells me. "It won't work, because the more people's rights are put in danger, the more they will want to take part in direct action.'
They'll have plenty of opportunities. On July 19, migrants will march in Genoa. Then, on July 20, echoing April's Quebec protests, "diversity of tactics" actions will be aimed at closing down the summit. Finally, on July 21, 100,000 activists, NGOs, workers and environmentalists are convening for a massive march organized by the Genoa Social Forum 700-group umbrella network. It should be the largest anti-capitalist mobilization yet. Even the Genoa town council is supporting it.
In the run-up, all eyes are on the Tutte Bianche (White Overalls) movement created by Ya Basta, which has vowed to invade the heavily guarded "red zone" around the summit venue. The authorities say protests must take place in an outer "yellow zone," and have commandeered 20,000 police and troops, 15 helicopters and seven naval boats to make their point.
Italian newspaper reports say the White Overalls are preparing for medieval warfare, with battering rams, giant catapults (to hurl dead fish and paint), massive netting to catch CS gas canisters and "wooden siege carts" filled with ammunition. Up to 10,000 Tutte Bianche are expected to march on police lines in Roman legion "turtle" formation. This involves the front row of an advancing column raising its shields vertically, while those behind hold them over their heads.
But Ya Basta spokespeople will only say, as Mondo does, that"the various collectives will lay siege to the G8. We don't want to offend the city -- by smashing McDonald's windows, for example -- because our enemy is the G8, not the city. The police are not our enemy either, but because they will try to stop us, we will use body protection and shields to remove physical obstacles in our way. The police are just an obstacle.'
Albeit a well-armed obstacle. In Gothenberg last month, three activists were shot, one in the back, during protests against the EU-U.S. summit. "If that happens in Genoa,' Mondo tells me, "the priority will be to save lives.'
And what if, as many expect, the summit is held at sea? "Then we will rent some boats. We're already preparing a boat caravan from the 16th to the 18th to come from all over western Italy to Genoa." There's an inexorable quality to the White Overalls' strategy that exhilarates many activists, but it piques the government of Silvio Berlusconi, too. (An official at the interior ministry would not answer queries and passed me on to the police, who also refused interviews, as did the prefetto, the leader of the Genoa town council.)
At one point, the newly elected Forza Italia government (a coalition including neo-fascists and far-right xenophobes) announced they would shut down all entrance points to the city. Now there are suggestions that the airport will only be closed July 19 to 22, while schools, sports centres and other venues will open their doors to activists. As they arrive, 30 Italian film directors will be out shooting them and tens of thousands of Italian workers will be walking out in support. The firemen announced their strike after refusing a police order to turn their hoses on activists. "They are even speculating that this could be the last G8 summit ever," Mondo says. "The stakes are very high.' @@@@@