Genoa: These Things Happen (2001)

Genoa: “These Things Happen”

John Barker 24.07.2001

Escalation and normalization of police violence

You would have to be deaf and blind not to have feared Death in Genoa. In Gothenberg just a few weeks ago, a young man was shot and critically injured with live bullets and, despite the initial shocked disbelief of one or two mainstream media people, it was normalized from the next day onwards. Regrettably these things happen, was the message. In Genoa the death of Carlo Giulliani was for Tony Blair, “tragic but.” This ‘but’ has normalized brutal repression one step further, was one of many green lights shone out for Sunday morning’s police attack on the Independent Media Centre where young people ‘shook with fear’, and everyone else beaten shitless, dragged to armoured hospitals and then hospitalized jails with their injuries, These things happen. As if anyone who talks civil rights was just a boring fanatic or just never reached adulthood. This is the tone for the world set by the way Bush and the Texan Dictatorship seized power on Florida. A fait accompli accomplished, and anyone who argued the point, just the whinger. Dodgy polling machines, blacks not on the register? These things happen.

These things happen. You would have to have no knowledge of how the Italian state operates under right wing governments not to have feared Death in Genoa. These guys, the ‘secret state’ are experts at creating situations in which the innocent get the blame, or end up dead. Fascist bombings at crowded stations presented as the work of the left, handshakes with the mafia, murders, lots of money and infiltration specialisation; original training supplied by the USA.

They are experts too, at making what happened become obscure, complicated and dragged out. Scandals are buried in dust before they emerge to be dismissed as something that happened a long time ago. Or as in the case of the present Prime Minister Berlusconi, ones that the judiciary does not have the power to pursue against him. His deputy is a self-proclaimed fascist. Starhawk reports a young protester taken by the police into ‘a room covered with pictures of Mussolini and pornography, and alternately slapped around and then stroked with affection.”

It is co-incidence that it should be Italy’s turn to host the G8, as it now is, so soon after the coming to power of Bush and Berlusconi, no doubt the rota had been arranged a long time ago, but they were the guys for the job. For the job? What is this conspiracy theory? What job?

The job of scaring people, of saying, see how brutal we can be if we want to. And this scaring of people is strategic, it aims to put off the idealistic, creative young people who have lived largely safe lives in relatively comfortable Europe, from protesting in any immediate way against the monologue of the rich and powerful, of saying anything different. The beatings at the Genoa Social Forum and of the independent media had this aim. A one journalist there for the beatings but relatively unscarred said, ‘the Italian state made us realize that all the rules of the game had been thrown out the window’, just as Bush has done at a global level from Kyoto onwards. In relatively safe Britain (safe since the systematic beatings of coal miners in 1984), present state tactics with the same aim have involved an unprecedented media campaign to scare people from this year’s MayDay demonstration, and the discomfort obtained by surrounding protestors for hours on end and humiliating them with their powerlesness. These tactics will be easier to carry out since a clearer example was shown in Genoa.

The job of creating situations, of agent provocateurs, of infiltration. Bring on the Italian state, where fascist bombings become left wing ones, and the leftist terrorist group of the 1970s, the Red Brigades, was more infiltrated than perhaps any similar group anywhere.

There is at present a body of anecdotal and photographic evidence that many of the most stupid actions pinned on the Black bloc of anarchists-the trashing of ordinary people’s shops and cars, the attacks on other demonstrators ostensibly in the name of super-militancy, were the work of people either of, or in collusion with the police. A possible British Nazi suipporter named Liam ‘Doggy’ Stevens is quoted as saying the Italian ‘brothers’ had invited him and that they had a free hand. There are accounts of ‘black blocers’ coming out of carbinieri vans, of being given crowbars by them, of attacks on real comrades in the Piazza Kennedy.

The mainstrean media in its various allotted roles say what they might be expected to say. The New York Daily Post, a Murdoch paper, says Carlo Giulianni deserved to die and only lily-livered European Social Democrats have feebly expressed regret, a full-blooded These Things Happen. In the UK, broadsheet newspapers do not report what happen and there is no fearless investigative journalism into agents provocateurs but instead have a string of commentators who, like St Augustine who wanted to stop sinning but not yet, worry that they are giving the oxygen of publicity to violent rioters, or well-known protesters deploring the violence of their own side.

The Black blocers would appear not to be ‘mindless’ but selective in targets for attack. On the other hand, their essentially vanguardist nature is bound to allow the space for provocations by the provocation experts. It is the evidence on this matter which it now appears, the police were so keen to destroy when the attacked the independent media centre, alarmed by reports from one or two courageous mainstream reporters. As in Gothenberg in the hours immediately after this attack Agence France Presse, Starhawk and even the BBC were able to give accounts of that attack, one that scared people so much because the violence used was ‘beyond reason’. For the state at that moment fear brings its own reward, but the fury of the attack was aimed at the information on the whole gamut of police violence held on computer disks and videos.

Perhaps the greatest provocation, and the most revealing was the fence itself, the elite getting on with its serious work (and how they suffer in the process as Tony Blair so eloquently puts it) for the good of humanity, not understood by peaceful protestors (stupid), or violent ones (criminals). The flim-flam is immense, the results, in relation to all the initiatives and treaties Bush will not sign, a mouse. And the fence necessary precisely because people are not stupid. The fence and the violence of the carbinieri necessary because people are not stupid, can see that despite the immense social wealth created by technological and other creativities, present global capitalism is more voracious than ever before, must find profits in health care and education; must sell more armaments, enclose more land. More voracious, it must be more violent. And well, these things happen. Or are opposed.