david turgeon on Tue, 24 Jul 2001 02:53:48 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> from québec to genoa

reading accounts of what happened in genoa (& comparing with the news, a 
frustrating yet interesting activity), as well as francesca da rimini's 
recently posted analysis, i would like to add that so far as "security" 
goes, i can see a lot of elements in genoa which i've seen firsthand in 
quebec city, only exacerbated (bigger city, more trouble!).

i was in quebec city as a non-violent, self-appointed observer, though 
obviously i have opinions of my own.  i was bearing no slogan, just 
watching how things went.  i saw many things: the people's march (a joyful 
crowd which i walked with for a little while), the thousands of folk 
climbing up & down the escalier des glacis (as most of the "action" was 
happening in the upper city), the barricade, the police personnel behind.

i also had the chance to witness an action led by masked people dressed in 
black, where they mostly attacked the fence & didn't really attempt to get 
inside.  what made their action stupid (as a friend made me realize later) 
is that they did this in the appointed "green zone", meant for peaceful 
action.  at that point i noticed that the police didn't really do anything 
to stop them, which i thought strange, but then the whole scene was surreal 
enough to begin with...  we were then attacked by a cloud of tear 
gas.  throughout the summit, there was no account of police forces actually 
attempting to hunt down on actual attackers, most of whom were black clad 
from head to toe, thus leaving no room for possible confusion...  (uniforms 
are made to separate soldiers from civils are they not?)

of course, in quebec city as with elsewhere, the police personnel has shot 
thousands of gas canisters & rubber bullets, usually with no conceivable 
reason.  anywhere you went in the so-called "green zone" you could always 
smell or feel the tear gas.  it was also obvious that the more peaceful of 
any particular group were the ones that were hit.  a friend of mine has 
been hit on the leg twice whilst trying to run away from a sit-in as the 
soldiers had miserably decided to shoot into the crowd.  (a canadian NDP 
deputy, svend robinson, was also present & was also hit on a leg.)

a radio interview with a police official, heard that weekend, confirmed 
that the weapons the police used are very precise things & thus it is not a 
matter of police shooting randomly into a vague crowd; specific people were 
targeted.  it turned out that a large number of them were perfectly 
peaceful, & there have been countless reports of medics being perhaps the 
most violently targeted.  this is additional proof to discredit the implied 
excuse that "with so many people, you don't know where to shoot."  if they 
really didn't know, they would shoot in the air, wouldn't they?

it also turned out the most violent "protesters" (from many accounts) were 
mostly drunk folks looking for trouble, with no actual intention to protest 
against anything related to the FTAA meeting.  reminescing this i wonder 
how many of those who gratuitously pillaged parts of genoa could articulate 
a coherent social statement around their act.  yet they continue to be 
called "protesters" or "activists" by the press...

in québec, the police did infiltrate "terrorist" groups, such as the 
germinal group, which has been detained for a few months & is currently 
under conditional liberation if i'm not mistaken; the weapons the police 
found are said to have been provided by the police themselves...  at the 
time though, the "arrest of a terrorist group" made front pages on the day 
the summit begun.  great momentum, isn't it.

what makes this little exercise so startling though is that canadian & 
québec police have also raided the headquarters of the medics & indymedia 
on day 2, though no blood was spilled (that i know of) which gave the event 
no mainstream coverage.  of course, it is all documented at indymedia 
québec.  i suppose it's an understatement to say that from the start, 
"alternative" journalism was to be discredited by any means; no "inside 
passes" were given to indymedia or itinerant journos.

this leads us to the mainstream press coverage.  i try to give journalists 
the full benefit of doubt on what they are able to cover (& more often than 
not, those who get to watch the ground level are usually the most critical 
of police actions, no matter how conservative they are.)  mainstream 
journalists (from left & right) were also very critical at the police press 
conference, asking the good questions but getting only vague &/or false 
answers.  the final word from politicians was that "the police did a good 
job", & that's what most people got as an answer through mainstream press 
(with dissenting opinions being published always in "marginal" context).

this aside, there seemed to be a real problem with finding "shocking" 
information to weigh in for the corporate point.  there were reports of 
only 2-3 buildings with broken windows (one bank attacked by "black bloc" 
types, the rest done late at night, presumably not by actual activists) yet 
photographs of it were shown repeatedly.  however, there were no pictures 
shown of what was destroyed by the police's weapons (windows, 
cars...)  also, when photographs of protesters are used, we notice that 
those the most bizarre attire are shown (ideally featuring signs that say 
"COMMUNISM" or "ANARCHY") which we suppose are meant to shock the 
conservative fiber of the regular newsreader.

so it does seem like the press is being handled by the police at these 
summits.  which is, indeed, a fascist thing to do any way you look at 
it.  but is italy a "fascist state"?  can we really say that?  we can say 
it is doing plenty of things one can easily recognize as fascist, & so is 
canada...  now may be a good time to stop reffering to whole countries as 
"democratic", "communist", "fascist", since countries are complex things & 
not everything in a so-called capitalist country is capitalist...  this 
generalized use of the word only serves to praise the winners & point 
fingers at the losers ("communism/anarchy has failed") where in fact, there 
is no "pure" system anywhere.

this brings us to the closing statement.  from all these supposed 
discussions, there's really only one statement, & it is meant to content 
the masses.  in québec, they vouched for "democracy" (but remember what 
we've said about pure systems...) & that was it.  in genoa, it's the fight 
against AIDS.  automatic good conscience at low cost, i find.  can no more 
work be done?  are global summits really just publicity stunts for the 
corporate world & the political leaders that abide by it?

but to end on a prospective note, on the news a few days before the 
giuliani murder, they were saying how they were sending canadian police 
people to italy so they can exchange knowledge on how to deal with "world 
summit situations".  of course, they were probably just going to discuss 
technical details, as the main strategy seems to be followed in a similar 
way everywhere.  the fact that it has gone so awry in genoa may be a sign 
of changes to come in the global police's strategy...  or PR.  regardless, 
i'll be there in banff or wherever they hide themselves the next time, if 
only to observe again.

~ david

PS: typing this makes the police strategy seem so painfully obvious that 
i'm questioning whether it makes sense to post this.  that the police would 
try to undermine the activists' credibility is such an understatement, yet 
it never seems to be fully acknowledged.  one will hear about the fact, 
even encounter it firsthand, but one's own version is then repeatedly 
contradicted by a large number of mainstream media news accounts, making 
the whole thing all the more unreal & difficult to believe.  since we can 
expect that a lot of protesters are in contact with mainstream media daily, 
this is sure to have a dulling effect...  let's just say that i could 
understand someone who never went to such a demo & thought "yeah, right, 
poor oppressed activists", or expected these accounts of police oppression 
to be exaggerated.  being there shows you that they are, in fact, accurate.

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