(European Court of Human Rights via Cherry X / wikipedia.)On April 7, 2015, the European Court in Strasburg finally condemned Italy for the torture of dozens or even hundreds of youth during the G8 conference (the World Trade Organization-WTO) in the beautiful north Italian city of Genoa in 2001. Police abducted many protesters on the streets surrounding the super protected Red Zone where world leaders were gathered and took them, males and females, to the now infamous Diaz School where they were held for days and subjected to varying kinds of mistreatment, including beatings, burns, sadism and humiliations. The scenes as described resemble those of the stadiums in Santiago, Chile after the overthrow of Salvador Allende and in Argentina of the same period.
The then chief of Italian police was Gianni de Gennaro who gave the no-holds-barred orders against the organized anti-G8 protest movement. Gennaro was subsequently named President of the major state participation group, Finmeccanica, a very high and representative position attained by nomination by the government, and ultimately the Prime Minister himself. After Italian courts first declared Gennaro guilty of torture-related charges, the Court of Cassation (the third and final level in the Italian judicial system) reversed the previous conviction and declared him innocent of charges, thus underlining the absence in Italy of an adequate law against torture.
The Genoa G8 took place fourteen years ago. However the ruling of the European court makes it seem like yesterday. Therefore I have posted here a chapter of my unpublished novel, Fragments, in which I relive those dramatic events, events that have continued and continue to be repeated time after time somewhere in the world.
A novel by Gaither Stewart
That afternoon, in preparation for the WTO meet in Genoa, I wrote about globalization, the violent WTO meet in 1999 and the protest movement of the People of Seattle … and interviewed our immigrant gardener. Out my study window I watched the black clouds gathered in the April skies and nostalgically hoped for a Munich kind of rain. My desk radio reported a mild earthquake in East Rome. Out-of-season torrential rains had pounded the city all morning. Basements and sewers overflowed, as usual, and Lungotevere underpasses flooded, as usual. But not a drop of rain had fallen here, eighteen kilometers north of the city center.
After the water blast, a cold wind had arrived. I put on a light wind jacket over my T-shirt and sat down to research the WTO Seattle conference.
Purposefully provocative in what I imagined was a very Argentinean way, Melania walked past in short shorts and the briefest of early summer blouses, snickered and said I must be sick. Day after day, night after night, she ambushed me in critical moments, while I, sustained only by my exaggerated and non-Italian sense of duty, put up a feeble show of resistance. “Jackets-in-April sick, you fake Northerner.” Trying to conceal my strange excessively cold nature that I hadn’t felt in Germany, I blushed as if she’d cast doubt on my manhood, hunched my shoulders and bowed my head over my computer.
I started with a reference to an old Guardian article of the breakdown of 1999 World Trade Organization talks: “Shame, shame, shame on you,” chanted the protesters beyond the lines of Darth Vader-style police, the armored cars, the horsemen, the National Guard and the dogs. The tear gas was heavy on the air, the police were firing plastic bullets into the weeping crowd and the Ministerial Round of the Seattle world trade talks was in crisis. The opening ceremony had just been cancelled because delegates were being corralled in their hotel suites…. The powerful First and Third World environment, development and human rights groups were condemning the way the talks were being powered through by the Americans to protect their own trading interests—to reduce agricultural subsidies and open up vast new markets. And more than 40 African, Caribbean and Latin American countries had united in protest against the way poor countries were being bullied by the rich and the way their concerns were being marginalized…. For the first time in history the poor countries of the world had told the rich they weren’t playing the First World’s game. For the first time, Africa was united. ‘No one combs our hair in our absence,’ said a furious Ugandan, as the talks lurched towards collapse…. So what happened in the real Battle for Seattle? Firstly, the poor countries were sidelined from the start in the desperation of the Americans to get a deal. The working groups which had convened to reach consensus between interested countries in different areas were regarded as a sham. The chairs were reporting consensus when none existed. At least one African delegate was physically barred from attending…. The US chief negotiator Charlene Barshefsky, who was judged personally offensive, patronising and insulting was booed in one plenary meeting. Secondly, the discussions … mostly between the rich countries, were excluding the poor. A third issue concerned the style and manner of the US chief negotiator. More than 5,000 people marched through the streets on that Friday morning. Led by steelworkers and students, it suggested a new awareness in groups who seldom campaign on international issues. ‘The students are hopping in the campuses over this,’ said a professor of English at Washington University….’This has all the hallmarks of being a new generation’s cause, just as Vietnam or Civil Rights were for us.’
I made a note that the Seattle WTO signaled the terminal sickness of capitalism as an “incurable illness” in that it cannot solve its crises. It only shifts them around geographically. Now the day is arriving when capitalism will have reached a saturation point where reinvestment ceases to produce adequate returns. The markets are already flooded. Bubbles have formed, bound to burst. The revolt of the Seattle people revealed the social tensions in the world of capitalism and the spreading hostility to the domination of corporations over people. Workers and youth staged the biggest demonstrations since the Vietnam War, this time against social inequality.
I will jump ahead of my story to relate that years later I found the confirmation of the capitalist disease in the words of Eric Bui, a psychiatrist at the University of Toulouse, who at the 2007 American Psychiatric Convention argued that the original of the popular Darth Vader—Anakin—meets six of the nine diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), one more than necessary to be declared sick. Bui and a colleague, Rachel Rodgers, published their findings in a 2010 letter to the editor of the journal Psychiatry Research, underlining that Anakin-Vader’s abandonment issues, his uncertainly over his identity, and his mass murders were dissociative episodes fulfilling other criteria of the disorder. I have concluded that the point is that our leaders—not really elected but appointed—are sick people. BPD says much too little about their anti-social conditions. Wikipedia has this and much, much more to say about BPD:
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) (called emotionally unstable personality disorder, borderline type) is a cluster-B personality disorder whose essential features are a pattern of marked impulsivity and instability of affects, interpersonal relationships, and self-image. The pattern is present by early adulthood and occurs across a variety of situations and contexts. Other symptoms may include intense fears of abandonment and intense anger and irritability that others have difficulty understanding the reason for. The disorder is a pervasive, enduring and inflexible pattern of maladaptive inner experience and pathological behavior. There is an ongoing debate about the terminology of this disorder, especially the word “borderline”. (Better would be Emotionally unstable personality disorder.) The most distinguishing symptoms of BPD are being highly sensitive to rejection and spending a lot of time thinking about the fear of possible abandonment. Other symptoms can include feeling unsure of one’s personal identity and values and having paranoid thoughts when feeling stressed. People with BPD are especially sensitive to feelings of rejection, isolation, and perceived failure.
Christ Almighty, I was to realize years later, I could be a case example for students and BPD scholars. Before learning other coping mechanisms, the efforts of the infected victims to manage or escape from their intense negative emotions can lead to suicidal behavior. Ugh! While people with BPD also feel joy intensely (that’s me), they are especially prone to feelings of mental and emotional distress (that’s me too, for sure). There are four categories of this dysphoria that are typical of this condition: extreme emotions; destructiveness or self-destructiveness; feeling fragmented or lacking identity; and feelings of victimization. Within these categories, a BPD diagnosis is strongly associated with a combination of three specific states: 1) feeling betrayed, 2) “feeling like hurting myself”, and 3) feeling completely out of control (that’s the USA, for certain!). Since there is a great variety in the types of dysphoria experienced by people with BPD, the amplitude of the distress is a helpful indicator of borderline personality disorder. In addition to intense emotions, people with BPD experience emotional lability, or changeability. Although the term suggests rapid changes between depression and elation, the mood swings in people with this condition actually occur more frequently between anger and anxiety and between depression and anxiety.
For Marxists who understand the sociopathic, cynical nature of imperialism, this BPD syndrome hardly comes as a revelation. Still, I had the good sense to think it’s good material to shove down the throats of right-wingers and everyone else who pretends to live in a morally exemplary society. What a field day Marx would have had with BPD whose symptoms he used one hundred and fifty years earlier to describe capitalism. Today he would most likely name the sickest nation with BPD—the United States of America. I have concluded that no other nation better fits the psychiatric analyses of the sick individual as applied to a whole BPD-sick society than the home of capitalism. Future historians will likely view America as a nation that reached its peak in the late 1990’s and then, after the turn of the century, lost its former abilities to truly lead the world. Today’s leaders in the U.S. government would greatly dispute that contention but the nations of the world would fully agree with it; they see it happening. Anyone except Americans themselves can see that this nation has forfeited any claim of being the true leader of the world. You can only be a leader if those who you claim as followers grant you that role. The admiration that other nations once had for America has been replaced by a sense of suspicion and mistrust. How many other countries still consider America the leader of this world? If a poll were taken the approval rating would be very low … a staggering blow to this nation’s ego. How many countries now see America as a nation controlled by a convoluted government; how many consider America on the road to becoming a world pariah? The list of nations that think this way is growing by leaps and bounds. The list of reasons why America is now held in such low esteem and, often, contempt, would be long. Clearly this country’s aggressive behavior toward other nations is the primary reason. Nor is there any doubt that America brought this condition upon itself because of its disregard for international laws and brutal behavior within the world community.
As Albert Camus would have noted it has exceeded the limits … for Americans are the renegade sons of Greece. America prefers power to greatness. In Camus’ words it will end up ruling over a desert.
It was a Monday in April, 2001. The much-ballyhooed meeting of the G8-WTO leaders was opening in the northern port city of Genoa on the upcoming weekend. My newspaper’s humorist described the exquisite pleasures awaiting the presidents and prime ministers and their hundreds of ministers and assistants and sherpas and bodyguards gearing up for the back-breaking work awaiting them on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Afterwards I would often wonder how many of the world leaders present in Genoa knew what was really in the works in New York’s financial district in those same months and if some of them had already discussed in secret the probable historical repercussions to the state terrorism just around the corner in September of that fateful year.
That day in April I didn’t write a word about the financial situation in Italy. It was the same old political malarkey anyway. The new Right government charged that the real debt was triple that which the outgoing Left government had reported. The Left accused the Right of falsifying the high debt figure because it couldn’t keep its electoral promises of reducing taxes and increasing benefits. Our editorialists had a field day with the image of one brand of capitalists at the throats of their brothers. But as even unemployed steel workers in Puglia and tomato planters in Naples knew, a few months later the government would announce the miracle that it had reduced the debt in its first one hundred days in power.
Instead, I began my personal preparations for Genoa. I had already decided to go on my own since the newspaper wouldn’t send me anyway. God knows what I would write, the bosses would have thought. They wanted detailed coverage. They wanted facts. My aim was to join the “Seattle People” on the streets in order to witness firsthand the events from the other end of the gun barrel and to be part of what was bound to degenerate into urban warfare. I decided on ambiguous dress: white pants and the black shirt and jacket like the extremists of the Black Blocs already assembling in north Italy. I didn’t know much about them yet but I already mistrusted them. I was also afraid that this time they would be out for the kill and a journalist was as good a target as anyone. So I would also take along a black passamontagna, that helmet-like black hood that insurgents, terrorists and special police forces of the world so love. Instead of a cudgel, I would hook my small high-speed camera to my belt. Psychologically, I stopped trying to distinguish between what world media pre-conference coverage reported and the wild images and premonitions chasing through my brain of the bedlam and mayhem surely hatching in Genoa.
On Thursday afternoon I called the desk chief and told him I was working on a big story and would be out of communication for a few days.
He grunted but said OK, and then gave the same response as always, which sort of tickled my vanity concerning my profession … about how easy it was, he said, to get beaten up or killed out there, wiped off the face of the earth, and to be on my toes.
I would bet he suspected what my big story was. He was used to my erratic work habits even though he didn’t approve but couldn’t do much about it because he knew quite well that I was ‘in the boss’s good books’.
That night I drove to Genoa, drinking liters of water chased with beer on the road. An unusually dark night. Highway illumination zero. An early monsoon-like spring rain was falling when I left Rome and continued on and off during the seven-hour nocturnal trek. In the rain, light-headed from the beer, vision bad, driving blind, I thought ‘What the fuck!’ and recalling of how my Irish dad loved his two quiet ‘pints’ in the evening, I slapped the steering wheel in rhythm with the music and sang at the top of my voice, rollin rollin rollin on the river, hardly aware that the tropical-like rain front was moving from the north down the peninsula so that the closer I got to the region of Liguria in the north the less intense and less frequent the showers. Through the swish swish swish of the wipers an optimistic weatherman interrupted the music to promise a sunny day in Genoa. In the early morning, sleepy from the mixture of rain and beer and music, I parked near the sea in the resort town of Nervi at the gates of the big port city to rest my eyes.
Suddenly, I am with Isabel on a train or maybe it is the sloping deck of a ship heaving on a rough sea. People mill around us. Lying side by side, our arms around each other, chastely, we speak of our imminent separation. I beg her to stay with me. ‘I’ll never be anything without you,’ I keep saying. ‘Stay, Isabel, stay.’ She answers, ‘you’ll never get away from the woman that loves you.’ But how I longed to get away—in the dream.
All of a sudden I jerk awake with an enormous need to piss. Full of mineral water and beer and still feeling the rain beating against the windshield, I drag myself out of the car. After relieving myself and getting half-soaked, I climb back in and lower the back of the seat in search of more sleep. That was the main thing. Sleep. Not like at home where sleep eludes me and even my will to live and accomplish exploits weakens. Still, hopefully the dream will continue so I can escape. As occasionally happens, the same dream does return. It is definitely the deck of a freighter. We’re lying on a tarpaulin spread over vague nautical equipment. Semi-darkness. Other people milling around. Our embrace is hurried. No longer chaste. She makes love to me. Out of careless pity, I realize. Loyalty to our past. In the dream. And at night we crossed the Alps and before the darkness turned to the blue of day we drove from Rosenheim to Munich.
Awake, I remember that it was the first time my dream self had allowed that most intense torment to happen. Not until Genoa-Nervi had it happened. The dream seemed to augur well for the day beginning. Hopefully I will see Nervi in that light again.
After my agitated dreams subsided, I taxied into the city, sleepiness still hanging on my eyelids. As promised sunshine shimmered on the waters of the Mediterranean. Several cargo ships sat motionless on the glittering water. Once in the city, my nerves on edge, I was quickly wide awake.
Following my plan, I lost myself among the feverish anti-globalist demonstrators, Italians and others who had trickled into Italy from France and Germany and elsewhere. They were preparing their battle plans. Police had constructed a cordon sanitaire around a Red Zone in the city center inside which the already-doomed-to-failure conference would take place. Secret police of the world’s richest nations were also rehearsing their strategies to protect their leaders from the growing wrath of the people that had exploded two years earlier in Seattle.
A hush seemed to have fallen over the port city spread across the side of the hill facing the sea. Even port work sites were strangely quiet at that hour. Cargo shops glided soundlessly into the port. Multi-storied cruise behemoths seemed abandoned dangerously near the wharfs. Judging by the contagious stillness you would never have imagined that the anti-globalists on the streets and piazzas allegedly numbered some two hundred thousand. I was right at the grassroots of protest, precisely where I wanted to be. I attached myself first to one group, then to another, until I got a general picture of developments. I came to realize that the youth and some not so young amalgamated in that surging mass of people from three continents didn’t understand what was really happening here behind the scenes. They’d come from afar and didn’t understand the layout of the complex Old City. I felt sorry for them and wondered what they were feeling about being here: joy or sorrow, conviction or doubt.
I spoke with some of them and had the vague impression that they were proud, scared and for some reason also sad. They mumbled vague answers or comments, at times as if confessing to a non-committed act. Yet their presence, at this precise time, at this precise event, seemed to have something of the supernatural about it. They behaved like the beneficiaries of a mass revelation. I sensed also an infectious spirit of their frustration and their sense of being useless yet holding fast to the hope of turning the world upside down.
In the early afternoon I sat on a stone bench observing and surreptitiously snapping photos and listening to a long monologue spoken directly into my ear by an aged man with a scraggly gray beard: “Italy has now officially joined in the capitalist effort to transfer trillions of euros to the few rather than to support the millions and billions of people of the world struggling to maintain the social state. Some people still think there is an abundance of persons capable of governing rationally. Instead we still have the same rotten capitalist system that crashed in 1990 and again in 2000. Except this one is worse. The capitalist reach into the world continues to spread its calamities instead of searching for other solutions in the face of its failures and its crises. The world’s problems call for a different set of solutions than the masses being cold, hungry and unemployed while the rich accumulate wealth and preach their ethic that the poor deserve to be poor, that they themselves are the proof that they deserve their riches and their places at the top of society. They believe they have the leaders they merit like those up there in the Red Zone.”
“And the banks?” I asked. “The banks ruling the world. The banks filling their vaults with gold and robbing the workers of their bread and creating the tension that one day in the near future will explode?”
“Our leaders—non-elected leaders—long ago opted for the side of the banks, not the customers. Capitalism feels secure. For the holders of the capital of capitalism the universe has found the perfect balance—every person is in his goddamned, God-determined place.”
I listened to this insightful street philosopher and kept clicking my camera until one of the scarce and scared policemen began looking at us suspiciously.
I moved on, the old man’s words pounding in my brain. Though his vision was as black as the inside of an asshole, he’d actually written my article for me about the meaning of the WTO meet.
The earlier silence was now drowned in a steady clamor like the crash of many instruments at the end of a symphony. Every few meters the language of the slogans on the flags and posters changed—English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Arabic. None of the demonstrators seemed to have a specific strategy in mind, not even a hint of tactics. They seemed to turn in circles. While some pounded drums, the masses raised their hands in the air and shouted “peace” and sang Bella Ciao and dialogued with town people hanging out the windows.
I kept thinking that as the old man had said these people were truly wonderful but that a lot of cruel things must happen to people before they finally wake up and start thinking about the realities of life and the ugliness you have to face just to live in dignity.
In the beginning the demonstrators had paid only scant attention to the Black Bloc anarchists in their black dress and black hoods or to the neo-Nazis and skinheads on the fringes. The young enthusiasts were blind to the secret police infiltrators. But the secret people were there. You only had to know the infiltrators were there and magically they became visible. By now I’m an old hand at coverage of mass demonstrations. I’ve learned that you can train your eyes to see things you earlier missed. Sometimes, to see the invisible.
Some of the people on the streets were bigger and stronger than the others. Their gait was different. The look in their eyes was conniving. They were the infiltrators, omnipresent along the confused avenues and amid the bedlam on the piazzas around the Red Zone inside which the rich world’s festive but fearful leaders were barricaded. I imagined them up there now eating caviar and toasting each other with Mumm and ignoring the reality outside..
I was observing the two sides of the same adventure as if seen from two diametrically opposed points of view. But only later would I have the peace of mind for analysis and synthesis of events that I sensed would be historical. The security alone was a dead giveaway. I’d never seen such tight safety measures, reminiscent of Trotsky’s entry in his Siberian exile diary about the number of gendarmes required to guard the soldiers required to guard the prisoners, to the effect that ‘such protection is reserved only for important criminals and well-known ministers.’
I joined the mass of demonstrators moving into the streets around the Red Zone, progressing by fits and starts because of the tumult caused by the array of Black Blocs and skinheads smashing shop windows and ripping up cobbles and tearing at anything in their path. Everywhere the masses of demonstrators went, hundreds of the panoply of Black Blocs flanked promiscuously by neo-Nazis and Secret Service men popped up in advance. Where did they come from? The demonstrators didn’t seem to wonder. It was evident to me that the infiltrators were trained in urban guerrilla warfare and had tactical battle plans. The hooligans swooped down the avenues, swinging their chains and clubs, setting fire to cars, breaking windows, throwing cobblestones at policemen and then stopping to pose heroically for TV crews. Gradually, the more astute demonstrators began to sense that something grave was supposed to happen. That pitfalls and dangers awaited one and all.
I was still wondering how the Black Bloc warriors and international skinheads got into closely guarded Genoa with all their equipment when I saw a white van parked right in the middle of a main piazza. The infiltrators—Black Blocs, neo-Nazis, skinheads and hooligans—were unloading their arms for all to see: clubs, chains, Molotov cocktails and probably firearms. I got the picture. Secret police were arming their warriors. Not all the masked men in black were the real Black Blocs. Some had to be disguised secret police.
The Black Blocs and the Nazis taunted the police ranks mildly and then beat the real demonstrators who had begun trying to disarm them.
The infiltrators incited the regular police to attack the demonstrators..
There on the piazza I overheard the first mention of the name of a secret army lurking among us, the EDP, Esercito di Difesa della Patria. That is, Homeland Defense Army. Now what the fuck was that? Another NATO invention like the former Gladio-Stay Behind Army? The name had that familiar ring. I’m a reporter and I know what the strategy of tension is. I know that the Gladio secret army organized a good share of the false flag operations in Italy. Police everywhere have always used that tactic: first create the disorder and then use it as an excuse to crush an entire movement … if need be an entire people.
The uniformed police and their dogs-looking-like-wolves never attacked the Black Blocs or the neo-Nazis. Instead they moved against the masses of peaceful demonstrators wandering around holding their hands in the air and shouting “A different world is possible”. Police bombarded them with tear gas fired at waist level. They clubbed down innocent youth and carried some of them away for a round of beatings. But they never touched the anarchists. If they were anarchists.
From hour to hour, from minute to minute, it became clear that someone had to die here today. That was the point in this unbelievable international spectacle on the streets of Genoa. Exactly what the servants of the secret services wanted. Someone had to die. The political leaders up there in their golden cage needed that death on the streets. That’s what the leaders of the rich countries wanted. To back up their charge that anti-globalization was the equivalent of violence and that their violence would soon degenerate into terrorism. For weeks, Italy’s newly installed neo-Fascist government had branded opponents of globalization “dangerous enemies of the western world”. The reactionary Premier had charged on his TV channels and in Parliament that opponents of G8 were “enemies of the free market, terrorists, and potential assassins”.
I felt enormous forebodings. Attacked by waves of unfamiliar sensations and aware that two distinct kinds of humanity opposed each other here, I wished I were somewhere else, like safely in bed with either Melania or again with the Isabel of my dream, insensible and conscienceless, in a state in which it was possible to erase from my mind the inevitable choices in this kind of life, even though I knew that not even that would guarantee the sleep of the innocent. I doubted everything and felt personally humiliated at the terrible abyss dividing the humanity I was observing and photographing. And I wondered if tonight or tomorrow I would have the courage to carry out what I had begun, following my grand dreams of heroic accomplishments—the dreams most likely to comfort and reward me personally and, as each time I had that thought, I felt my guilt surge because most of such dreams in the past had broken down miserably and come to nothing, ultimately leaving me drained and empty. When that feeling of being a triviality in life, a nullity, the sensation of disintegration—as close to non-existence a thinking person can experience—returned, it was such experiences as today, on the edge so to speak, that kept me alive and involved me at least peripherally in real life. A shipwreck and a lost man’s wife. The hopelessness of the meandering old River Tiber. The ant-on-a-tile. Nullo brooding at the Bruno Giordano monument. Things that cry that Destiny is implacable and inalterable, only for the bold and the fearless. Thank Fate such moments never last long. Moments when the poetry in me seems to die and my loneliness and lostness surge, when I despair at the choices already made and at those I would have to make tomorrow. Again I tell myself I have to know myself better, learn from every experience … and hope to save myself. And save myself from what? From DID? Or the EDP?—at the same time aware that such philosophizing is no more than fear … at best, rationalization. The thing is, I fear that my lived life conceals the real things from me as it does in these non-violent demonstrators. Still, I care about the missing things. And I try, I have tried, over and over, to compensate for what lies concealed and unrevealed in me.
“Apocalypse in Genoa,” the right-wing press had trumpeted. “Suicide brigades from the Middle East. Rat men in the sewers. Condoms filled with AIDS-infected blood thrown at the police. Armed demonstrators everywhere.”
Young policemen were terrified. Some lowered their clubs and acted as if they would like to drop all their heavy gear and join the kids marching around them.
I photographed a girl lying on the pavement, one of her legs bent out of shape. She was crying. She said a guy in a black hood had clubbed her.
I photographed a man with a yellow card hanging on his chest with the word “press” written across it. He had a pistol in his hand.
I pulled on my hood and moved forward among a squadron of Black Blocs and skinheads and, I assumed, Secret Service infiltrators. Like a huntress lion separates the weakest zebra from the herd, they had isolated a Carabinieri jeep from the others, pushed it against a wall and surrounded it.
Now I’m not a fearless type. I’m cautious … maybe thanks to my mother’s spoiling vigilance over me when I was a child. You can never be too anxious. Even if some people call caution cowardice, I know that fear and caution can save your neck. And after all you can’t be choosey about the best means to save your life. It was my nature to shy away from the police passing through the mobs and especially from their wolf-like dogs. At the same time I knew quite well what lay ahead of me: a cocktail of Fascists and Carabinieri and Secret Service and now EDP, all with stubborn looks of aggression on their faces, basking in their child-like arrogance and in the security of the equipment strapped around their waists and their dogs-looking-like-wolves. In their vanity they looked both amused by the scene and eager for someone to die.
Hatred pulsated. You could smell it. Hatred wafted across the piazzas of Genoa. Seemed cosmic. Rampant ignorance was about to change the destinies of each individual on the piazza. Hatred and ignorance, I thought, inching my way toward the jeep. You could see it in the eyes of the secret people. In some, I was sure, the pair of emotions was accompanied by a modicum of boredom with their everyday and still young lives making them recklessly ready to beat, maim and kill. Anything to create variety in their lives today and fuck the past and the future.
Despite my wariness and the threats issuing from the ignorance surrounding me, I moved closer to the isolated jeep lying still like a fox in its hole. The fear would come later.
I was only a few meters distance from the target when I noticed near me a little man dressed in black. He didn’t look like the rest. Short and scrawny with spindly legs in tight jeans, he barked orders in Italian to four or five masked men milling around between him and the jeep. I intuited who he was: Secret Service. I took off my hood and photographed him. Daring. Risky.
He too took off his mask. He was pale, had a narrow face, close-set eyes, and protruding teeth. Mean, murderous, obstinately unstoppable, suddenly placed right next to me. His pistol was visible in his belt. I had the crazy thought that it was too big for him. I snapped another shot.
In that moment, one obsessed guy dressed in black ran up behind the jeep and smashed the rear window with a two-by-four and tried to jump inside. The terrified Carabiniere threw a fire extinguisher at him through the broken window. Black Bloc men and skinheads surrounded the jeep shouting in German and Italian, “get them, get them, tear them apart.”
The red face of the Carabiniere appeared. He was holding a pistol in his hand and shouting, “via, circulate, move on, via.” He was very young and very afraid.
A Black Bloc man held the fire extinguisher in the air as if to hurl it back into the jeep. I noticed his hesitation and imagined he didn’t know what he was doing.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the wiry little man near me move. He raised his pistol. I aimed my camera. He fired twice right into the head of the Black Bloc man holding the fire extinguisher.
I snapped 4, 5, 6 rapid shots of the scene taking place less than five meters distance from me.
“Gotcha!” I said audibly. If my camera were a gun I would have killed too. The instinct to kill what you hate. Sometimes you can’t resist. Just to know how it feels.
The killer looked me straight in the eyes as I got a full-face shot of him. The expression on his face impressed itself in my memory, an expression that he must have spent his maybe thirty-five years to compose, an expression that in that instant seemed to express also his soul. I will never forget the ugliness and unremorseful hate in his eyes directed at me.
“I’ll get you, asshole!” he hissed.
“You just shot a kid in the head,” I yelled back idiotically.
As I slowly backed off, I sought a face like his in my mind, wondering if I had ever seen such an evil, foul, cunning and cruel look on the face of another human being. Most people pass through life and die without ever realizing just how degenerate others can be. Nothing came to mind resembling the malice on the face of that man in that instant only a few steps removed from me and my all-seeing camera. No such evil in my memory and I hated him all the more for it.
Now terrified of my daring and my heart pounding, I suddenly turned and ran. Running for my life. Thinking I should have stuck to stories about the Tiber and the tiny world of ants.
Behind me, the killer began yelling to the others in Italian as I hightailed it toward the mass of demonstrators who hadn’t yet grasped what was happening.
“Prendilo, prendilo, prendi quel figlio di puttana. Catch that son-of-a-bitch.”
Fleeting fragments of my life flashed past me—Providence, (Was I ever there?), Munich, Isabel, Rome, Melania. I ran for my life from the bedlam of the square that looked like a battleground. I’m tall, slim, and have thin legs that I was ashamed of when I was younger, but I can still run fast. Lickety-split, hell-bent for leather on skinny legs that in high school football had earned me the nickname of Jackrabbit … God knows why I thought of that in such a nasty moment, chased by bands of mad killers and their wolf-dogs.
Once back in a quieter part of town I found one of the few working taxis and returned to Nervi. I will never forget or forgive them for the wanton murder and for what they did to a naïve peaceful demonstration on the streets around the Red Zone of Genoa. We always forgive too much.
And I still didn’t know the half of what was continuing to happen in Genoa. I still knew nothing about the torture of innocent demonstrators going on at that same moment in certain military barracks and vacated schools, all in the name of peace and the safety of pathologically evil, BPD-infected world leaders.
On my drive back to rainy Rome excited radio reporters described again and again how a young Carabiniere in defense of Western civilization had shot to death a twenty-three year old terrorist-demonstrator. Like Nazis charging Polish Communists with burning down the Reichstag. But I knew the truth. The demonstrator was Black Bloc. The shooter was an agent of the Italian secret services. The official Secret Service had murdered a Black Bloc warrior in a typical act of tension strategy.
I could identify the real killer but I feared the Secret Service could identify me.
Feeling chill bumps down my spine now that the action was over, I kept slapping the steering wheel and shifting gears unnecessarily, my shoulder white hot, while in my lower belly I felt an attack of diarrhea coming on at the thought that maybe it was all up with me. Yet remembrance of what I’d witnessed had lodged fast in my brain. I still had in my nostrils the sickening sweet smell of the gasoline from burning torches dancing and whirling around the jeep and the acrid smell of the gunfire. Sometimes, for me, peoples and events, cities and even countries are reduced to smells. The container time too, patches of time and the shocks and jolts and my own stupefaction at what they led to become increasingly insecure. While some of the kids a couple of blocks downhill toward the port sang Bella Ciao, while others marched and waved their arms and shouted “a better world is possible”, while secret police handed out chains and bludgeons to the Black Blocs, while a young Carabiniere held onto a fire extinguisher for dear life, while presidents and their flunkies toasted the NOW, they shot and killed a kid dressed in black who also wanted to change the world.
But then, as the smell of fresh gunfire in my memory subsided and I reached the safety of the autostrada, o la la, a burst of optimism came over me. I began feeling the solace from that romantic quirk of mine of seeking adventure and risk just for the shiver at the sensation of danger. Did it or did it not lie in the past? Or was it, deceptive as ever, just another sign of an alteration of time and of my own temperament that I had begun feeling more frequently?
The day after Italian media (press and all major TV channels) reported the ruling against police brutality during the G8 Genoa conference, Amnesty International labeled the events of Genoa “the greatest violation of human rights since World War II.” To which one of the policeman charged with carrying out orders (whether an explicit or implicit is irrelevant in this extreme case) to crush any violence on the part of demonstrators, posted on his Facebook words about his joyful participation in the manhandling of abducted demonstrators: “I would do it again and again, thousands of times,” wrote Fabio Tortosa. “All 80 of us policemen of the VII Section of the police from Rome had to stop the attack on the G8.” He added that he didn’t even understand all the todo raised by police actions now 14 years ago.
To which entry arrived dozens and dozens of comments on Tortosa’s FB page. Most Italians were content with labelling the policeman “bastard son of a bitch”. However some defended him and one wrote that he personally would have done much worse.
The key to understanding the essence of this bitter story lies in the reality behind my fictionalized version of the events above. The fact is that over 95% of the demonstrators were as I describe them. They were rather naïve peace movement supporters who performed precisely the actions I depict: carrying peace placards, shouting peace slogans and singing We Shall Overcome and Bella Ciao. The violence instead was created by the Black Blocs, Skinheads and police infiltrators armed with chains and bludgeons who attacked the peaceful masses, who were then not only beaten and tortured but were also blamed for the violence.
Genoa 2001 was a classic case of a false flag operation, a tactic used by power since the early Persian Empire.
Senior Editor Gaither Stewart serves as The Greanville Post and Cyrano’s Journal Today European correspondent. A retired journalist, his latest novel is The Fifth Sun (Punto Press). He’s also the author of several other books, including the Europe Trilogy, of which the first two volumes (The Trojan Spy, Lily Pad Roll) have been published by Punto Press. These are spy thrillers that have been compared to the best of John le Carré, focusing on the work of Western intelligence services, the stealthy strategy of tension, and the gradual encirclement of Russia, a topic of compelling relevance in our time. He makes his home in Rome. Gaither can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest assignment is as Managing Editor with TGP’s Russia Desk.