BLOCK G8 2009!Direct actions, demonstrations, appeals and events against the G8 summit in Italy
In recent weeks progress is being made in the mobilization against the G8 summit in Italy. Particularly the planned transfer of the G8 site to the earthquake region of L´Aquila and to Rome (1) have caused intense debates and great interest in the present state of preparations.
“220 million Euros already being designated for La Maddalena can be saved“, Berlusconi stated, stressing to give reasons for the transfer to L´Aquila. Sardinian precarious workers object that with reference to the expenses for the construction of the G8-facilities planned for future elite conferences and luxury holidays in the archipelago northeast of Olbia, 320 million euros “have been thrown out of the window.“ (2) Altogether the holding of the G8 summit on La Maddalena was supposed to cost 400 million Euros. It is not clear what will happen with the allegedly remaining 180 million: do they serve for the completion of the far advanced measures on Sardinia or will they really benefit the disaster victims as promised by the Berlusconi government?
Only last week the security plannings on La Maddalena – at least on the “first level“ – were declared completed. (3)
Events and protests should be held as far away as possible from the summit area, the Schengen Agreement about renouncing identity checks at crossborder traffic should be appealed. At airports and ferry harbours, at several European harbours with connections to Sardinia as well as at the borders to Italy, border controls and longer waiting times were predicted. The summit area on La Maddalena and the cruise ship MSC Fantasia were planned to be surrounded by three safety belts in which traffic should be restricted or rather stopped, ferry crossings to La Maddalena were to be applied for. The sea around La Maddalena archipelago should be locked up around a wide area, flights of about 50,000 passengers diverted to Olbia. Red Cross, hospitals, police and fire brigade have had a practice manoeuvre in Olbia.
Popular Kitchen “Carlo Giuliani“
Besides a supposed saving of costs the summit is planned to be transferred to prevent eventual protests to the greatest possible extent: “I don´t believe that anti-globalists will have the courage to organize violent demonstrations in this earthquake-stricken region“, Berlusconi stated. (4) Leftist groups and activists although are present in the Abruzzi right from the start and have appealed for support of the persons affected by the earthquake. They commit themselves in camps taking matters into their own hands, in operating large kitchens, in providing further infrastructure as well as in delivering material aids and healthy food.
Already on the same day of the earthquake the initiative “Epicentro Sociale“ (solidarity epicentre) was founded. (5)
The regional council of the Rifondazione Comunista attacked Berlusconi´s comment that leftist protesters would not come into the disaster area: “I want to inform the president that the anti-globalists arrived together with the Civil Guard – and in many places even before them“, according to the regional council of Rifondazione Comunista . (6)
Hundreds of volunteers of Rifondazione Comunista, social centres, environment groups, Catholic trainees and social forums have distributed food, blankets and medicine to the earthquake-stricken population and gave all kinds of assistance. The camp kitchen in San Bagio was already on the first day named after Carlo Giuliani, who was shot dead by police during the G8 summit in 2001.
On the Italian web-platform Indymedia the helpers raise heavy reproaches against the state-run aid organizations in the camps and in general and denounce an “extortive pressure for national unity“. (7)
On the 10th of April cars and a van with supplies was stopped by the Carabinieri. The transport was organized by students of Naples, material and companions were on their way to a self-governed camp. The convoy was stopped and taken to the provincial police headquarters. According to the Carabinieri, the self-governed aid programmes were a “masked extensive plundering manoeuvre“. Only when the news circulated in the Italian media the convoy was released.
Meanwhile there is the appeal “Appropriate the mountains, bury G8!“ (8) calling upon the “Global Multitude“ to seize the opportunity in the Abruzzi to build “sustainable, forward thinking communities,” 10 years after the Seattle group “Diggers 2.0“ appealed for “Solidarity out of the ruins of Neoliberalism“:
“We need solutions of the crisis from down below, an opposing power of social movements with a shovel in its hand getting ready to build a post-capitalist world. Call upon the global multitude to come to Abruzzo from 7th to 11th of July to help rebuild Abruzzo“.
Militarized disaster control organization
The extraordinary ministerial council convened on the occasion of the state of emergency has appointed Franco Gabrielli as prefect of L´Aquila. Gabrielli started his career with the political police “Digos“ in Imperia and changed later to the head office in Rome. He was responsible for the police conducting a coordinated action against the organization succeeding the “Red Brigades“, after which two arrested persons were found responsible for the deaths of Massimo D´Antona and Marco Biagi. After the operation he became chief of the internationally operating secret service “Servizio Centrale Antiterrorismo“. A few years ago he drew up together with the current Chief of Police Antonio Manganelli an investigation practice manual.
„L´Aquila is militarized“, it seems like „practical military occupation exercises“, claim people who feel victimized by the actions. (9) “The earthquake lays reality open as it really is: separated between rich and poor“. The population and helpers obviously get harassed by police forces at the service of the emergency apparatus of state: “They run after us, they forbid us, they command us, they tell us off when we try to take back our houses“. Reports in opposition to the militarization document that under the earthquake ruins numerous migrants are buried and not turning up in the official statistics. (10) A Romanian nurse who was about to rescue her belongings together with some friends out of the house she had lived in, was arrested together with her companions and taken to court for looting in specially held proceedings.
Newspapers were reporting extensively about this and thus intensified the anti-Romanian atmosphere, however when the woman was acquitted the press abruptly lost their interest.
The power of the earthquake was not the cause for the full extent of the damages as much as speculative, grossly negligent methods of construction and neglect of regulations. In the centre of critique is the Italian company Impregilo (11) which had constructed many of the collapsed buildings. According to enquiries the houses were manufactured partly with concrete mixed with sea sand. Steal reinforcement corroded therefore much faster, and the houses weren’t stable anymore. Impregilo used to belong to the Fiat group and is part of a consortium of Benetton, Gavio and Ligresti today. After Berlusconi’s election the Impregilo share rapidly shot up. The company is planning to realize a project of prestige costing into the billions, the Messina bridge between Sicily and the mainland, one of the election promises of Berlusconi.
Berlusconi’s career itself is connected with a construction industry notorious for corruption; he is supposed to have received funds from the secret lodge Propaganda 2.(12) Impregilo has drawn attention to itself with numerous scandals and is responsible for the militarization of Naples´ “rubbish scandal“. The company also has not completed construction of a refuse incineration plant in spite of the completion of the contract in 1998. As a result a court had charged 27 managers and politicians.
Impregilo is constructing a tunnel for the high speed train TAV (13) in the Susa valley north of Turin. This project is provoking fierce and militant resistance from the population over the last 20 years, because the work releases natural uranium and asbestos. Supported by activists of social centres they had occupied the construction site in 2006. After the police had cleared and afterwards occupied the site themselves, their supplies were cut off by blockading protesters. After 20 hours the police gave up. The result was a temporary halt to construction, but in March Berlusconi announced the construction to go on again. (14)
International climate activists as well are criticizing Impregilo. The company holds the biggest share of a planned aluminium power station in Iceland, is constructing world-wide numerous controversial dam projects (15) and intends to build nuclear power plants in Italy.(16)
Protests have strengthened against G8
Since the announcement that the Summit will be transferred to L’ Aquila and Rome, plans for doing protests are increasing over the international mailing-lists. Also in Berlin, there will be a demonstration called “We are your crisis”.(17)
First protests against the G8 have already taken place in Italy. The G8-Ministers of Agriculture have already met in Castelbrando. Before that, activists of the group called “Health and Environment” had written “NO OGM” (no genetically modified organisms) into a field, which was unable to be overlooked from an aerial view. But to “avoid instrumentalisation and polemics” they announced “on advice of the police president Damiano” to remove the signature before the G8-Meeting themselves.
At the beginning of the G8-Meeting, there was a public Assembly against the G8 Agricultural Ministers meeting in Treviso (18). 3,000 police had been mobilised, flights in the area were banned, police controls and limited access were installed. There have been protest initiatives and actions of anarchists, disobbedienti, and activists from the social centers as well as the Italian federation of farmers, demonstrating against environmental destruction, industrial agriculture, Nano- and genetic technology. In Rome, workers in the field of agriculture were on strike for eight hours. Activists of Ya Basta fenced in the Benetton-Store in Treviso with barbed wire to protest against the exploitation of workers in Patagonia through Benetton.
Before the police and press massively began a propaganda campaign against certain actions of a “black bloc”, because there was a call for an assembly to “radically change the status quo, to start a broadly received protest, in which the desire for direct action can be discovered and coordinated”(19). The media sounded the “black bloc-alarm” (20).
One day before the meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture, in Ca’ Tron in Roncade a laboratory for experiments with genetically modified organisms was “sanctioned from below” (21).
After activists accessed the area, they were throwing stones on the green houses and surveillance cameras and were spray painting “No OGM” on the walls: “With this action we want to unmask the hypocracy of those who see genetically modified organisms as an experiment with positive output towards the solution of environmental, economic and social problems. This is our welcoming ceremony to the delegations of those that believe, that they can rule the world on the backs of billions of people.” The paper was signed with “Social Centers of the North East”. Shortly after that, the police announced a manhunt and arrested 4 persons in a car, who supposedly had been on the flight from the crime scene (22).
Some days later, the police searched six “flats of ex-disobbedienti” from Treviso and the social center Ubik-Lab in Ponzano Veneto (Treviso). Supposedly 10 people had been identified during the action in Ca’ Tron. As incriminating evidence, a Computer, hard drive, paint pots and maps of Ca’ Tron, in which the area around the center has been marked, shoes and brochures were been confiscated. The police claimed that the activists were planning another “attack” during the G8-Meeting inside the Red Zone. The speaker of the attacked Social Centers are declaring the accusations and Razzias as “ridiculous and surreal” (23). Accusations include breach of public peace, and property destruction for five people in the heavier case with destruction of an electricity distributor for the climatisation of the green houses, the windows of the laboratory and of four surveillance cameras (24).
In Siracusa/ Sicily, a demonstration of up to 3,000 people against the meeting of the Ministers of Environment of the G8-countries, who were meeting – like in the Northern Italian Castelbrando – in a historic castle, has been the peak of a two-month long mobilisation and was seen by all participants as very positive (25). The most important result of the action has been to transform the broad collection of groups (26) against the G8-Environment-Summit into a “steady coordination”, which stands as a movement (27) of diversity, which is opposing the speculation and destruction”, that on Sicily and even cross-border are of really heavy (28), “from now on, there will be support, starting with the fight against the erection of gas digesters in the Petrochemie complex of Priolo-Augusta”.
A very important and present number of participants have been the numerous self-organised migrants at the protests (29), who raised clear demands on banners to the Italian government, the prefectures and the Police Chief.
Leading up to the demonstration, a three day long counter summit had been held, at which numerous initiatives had been involved together with activists from a broad political spectrum – including the labor unions Cobas, Rifondazione Comunista and several Social Centres, which on Sicily are already fighting against the planned construction- (30), Industry (31) and NATO-large scale projects. (32). They are criticising and fighting them, because they are adding to incredibly heavy damage of the environment and the living conditions (33) of the people, which are already quite poor (34), and which is only serving the profits of business interests in the national and global political and context. Moreover the engagement of activists from further regions of Italy´s South has been noticed.
The motto of the counter summit has been: “An attack on the Island of the Future: the Environment-G8. Nuclear power, waste incineration, environmental pollution, garbage, military bases. We are not going to pay for your crisis with our land!”. The 22nd of April was dedicated to the “Array of effective, independent to any profit interests, proposals on the topic of Environment”, while on the next day a “round table” – parallel to the general strike of the unions – “recent topics like work, precarity and societal fights” were addressed, whereas the pressure – transported over the media, which had not payed any attention to the contents of the G8-Protestors – on the upcoming demonstration more and more were changing the athmosphere (35).
Another part of the success of the initiatives against the Environment Summit was probably the political closeness (36) of the demonstrating summit protestors, despite the repression of the security offices and the signals of appreciation shown by the inhabitants, which – actually waiting for the demonstration (37) – was in assembled in large numbers at the sides of the streets.
Videos show pictures that prove, how officials tried to create a climate related to the G8 2001 in Genoa.
The police showed over days and weeks in diverse ways an absolute drive for surveillance and announced explicitly their high preparedness for repression:
“Since days the citizens are living in a kind of induced nightmare, because the Police Force and the prefecture had warned those involved: Everything is possible, we can not offer no security in the field of public order: the “Black Block” is just underneath us.” (38). Only the Mayor of Siracus tried to mitigate the climate of fear, totally the opposite of his colleague in Treviso, who advised the shop keepers personally to keep their shops closed. But most of the business owners were not paying attention to the Mayor, but to the buzz of the media and the security organisations (39).
Leading up to the meeting hard controls were carried out in cities including Catania (40) and Messina and even complete closing (41) of the train Messina-Siracusa had taken place. The travellers have been forced to go on with another train, potential counter summit participants and demonstrators were bullied and partially blocked from going to Siracusa in time for the demonstration. In the wake of street controls, car and bus searches (42), arrests and bans (43) have been performed, eventually because someone had an axe handle with him because he was working in the field of agriculture and some stones he was collecting because of their beautiful shape.
Even if before the protest, the demonstrators have been differentiate in their disagreements about the cutting of their rights through repression and surveillance, during the demonstration and at the big barricade with which the accessing street to the castle in which the G8 Environmental Ministers were meeting, have been blocked, the demonstrators appeared enclosed and loudly voiced their opinion (44). There were also presentations about the G8 in Genoa and remembering Carlo Giuliani (45).
When the demonstration was starting with a few hundred participants, they were applauded by the citizens at the side of the streets. The support of the local people was present on the whole protest route. A big group of the Ultras Siracusa was greeting the demonstrators with loud chants about the topic of repression (46). On the way to the final rally point the demonstration grew towards some thousand people.
The acceptance of the population was clearly the beginnings of a “Permanent cooperation against speculation and environmental destruction” in Sicily with coordination and courage of the participants, who against repressive conditions (47) had sucessfully made the first large protest against the G8 since Genoa in 2001. As the numerous video reports showed, the final rally proved to be happy and joyous, and fully of empathetic thanks to all of the march participants, the local people, and to the lawyers of the “Democratic Forum” who had given their legal support.
The need for protection to demonstrate will stay exceedingly high until the very last moment. Italy has seen months of new, sharp demonstation regulations (49), setting organisers under heavy pressure.
The G8 Environmental Minister meeting in Sicily was organised by the Italian Environmental Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo (50), who, along with her family, owns a number of polluting businesses. She belongs to the so-called “Institutional Playgirls” of the Prime Minister, who has made his success as a media-tycoom on the recipe of “tits, ass and pink-colored dreams.”
Also in Sardinia the protest movement had come. The “Mesa Sarda. A fora su G8” (“Sardinien Table. Out with the G8”) plans for social justice and to fight for national soverignty, and organised a meeting called “All nations without a government.” The meeting is planned for 8-9 July, with a demonstration planned on the 10th in Olbia near La Maddalena.
“We from the anti-colonial Sardinian Independence Movement (51) will denounce how we have been betrayed and taken advantage of like in a bad joke, and in our country the hopes of the Sardinians have been used like a throw-away foot rag. First we were fooled by the Italian state about infrastructural improvements, the road between Sassari and Olbia, that is, and about work opportunities raining on a huge scale over a country already exhausted by unemployment. Then they diverted the means designated for these infrastructures and annexed the entire hotel plant running, the touristic harbour and the plants on the Arsenale site on La Maddalena, financed by us Sardinians, to the president of the employers´ association“
Press release of Mesa Sarda concerning the G8-location transfer (52).
In an interview Mesa Sarda member Bastiano Cumpostu explained: ''We from Mesa Sarda A fora su G8 have issues in common with the no globals. We don´t agree that our region is going to be used as a living room for the G8 heads of state“.
''The summit participants will hear from us“, announced also Francesco Caruso, ex-parliamentarian with Rifondazione Comunista and earlier representative of the ''disobbedienti“ in an interview for the Sardinian daily newspaper L´Unione Sarda.
The ex-parliamentarian with Rifondazione Comunista criticizes the striving for the absence of every political protest (53):
''(Berlusconi) is taking advantage of the drama of the homeless for propaganda reasons and at the same time intends to cut the right to demonstrate of opponents of globalization“.
''The fact that the leaders of the world hide on an island is a sign of weakness. For years now the critics of globalization point to economic and environmental risks. Now, all our predictions are happening, and the leaders of the world are barricading themselves in“. Francesco Caruso (54)
The announced protests against the G8 university presidents´ summit from 17th to 19th of May in Turin (55) are probably going to be exciting. The movement against the ''Gelmini Reform“ is calling for blockading the meeting (56). The broad protest movement against mass discharges and reforms in the education sector and the loss of autonomy last year had resulted in partly fierce and militant mass protests.
Already in the run-up to the meeting of the G8-ministers of agriculture supposed police insights were sensationally propagated through the media about planned protests with supposed preparations of militant actions of a ''black bloc“. The construct of the ''black bloc“ is going around in the Italian public since the G8 in Genoa in 2001. In court trials police and public prosecutor´s office have tried to make the ''black bloc“ as an ''international terroristic organization“ a fixed juristical point and to sentence activists to heavy imprisonments for membership in the same.
''Security circles“ suppose to have observed since one year that „small Anarchist groups“ out of France, Great Britain and Germany were spying out the region around La Maddalena.