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Interview with Enrica Bartesaghi

Open Wounds

From an outside perspective, Genoa is still very much linked to the bloody G8 summit from 2001. In the following interview, which was conducted by the publishers of “Genoa etc.” [www.etc-publications.com], Enrica Bartesaghi talks about her project to support the victims of the G8 summit in correlation with the city’s transformation into the European Capital of Culture.

How do you remember the G8-meeting?

Genoa and the G8 was, and still is, an open wound for me both as a mother and as an Italian citizen. In July 2001 my daughter went to demonstrate against the G8. She was 21 then, and she was a girl like many others, who wanted to demonstrate peacefully against the G8, in order to be alongside those who have no rights, who never have had a voice.
My daughter happened to be in the Diaz School (which was invaded by the police force). Together with 92 other people she was first beaten by the police, then brought to a hospital, then seized and finally brought to the Genoa Bolzaneto barracks, where she was “missing” for two days. There she was threatened, beaten, and tortured. I had no word of her, where she was, what had happened to her, why she had been arrested - missing in Italy, a great country that is part of the G8, in July 2001!
This is why Genoa remains for me a hostile place, where one can lose one’s children and then find them wounded and humiliated. Or lose them forever, as Haidi and Giuliano Giuliani did.
However, I have met dozens of Genoese doctors, lawyers and journalists who have been trying to heal the wounds of the demonstrators who were victims of police brutality. This is the generous, democratic Genoa that I encountered later.

How is the event being remembered in the city of Genoa itself, for instance by its citizens?

In regard to the citizens of Genoa, it seems to me that there are two main ways of dealing with the memory of the G8. On the one hand, there are those who saw and who do not forget the repression and the violence perpetrated by the law enforcement officials, for instance the killing of Carlo Giuliani; they are working for the truth to emerge. On the other hand, there are people who want to forget those days, who are convinced that this was some problem between police and demonstrators and that it concerns only police and demonstrators; they want the case to be closed soon.

You are the president of the committee that has been founded by a group of witnesses of the incidents – journalists, physicians, and union activists – in order to support the defense of the victims being charged but also pressing charges of police repression in Genoa during the G8 meeting. Could you briefly outline what the current status of the investigation is?

The state of the investigation is as follows: 26 demonstrators have been charged with devastation and looting, and they are to be tried from March 2, 2004 onwards. The crimes they are accused of are very serious and, if found guilty, they risk being sentenced to a minimum of 8 years in prison.
Their situations are diverse: some of them were with Carlo Giuliani in Piazza Alimonda, others were in via Tolemaide when the ‘Disobbedienti’ contingent was attacked without reason by the carabinieri (the military police).
Others have been accused of damaging banks, supermarkets, post offices or the front door of the Marassi prison. The crime of devastation and looting has been tried very few times in Italy since the end of WWII and there is the risk that these demonstrators will become the scapegoats for everything that happened in Genoa during the G8.
As far as the Diaz School is concerned, the investigations regarding the 93 arrested demonstrators have been closed and all charges against them have been dropped. They were charged with resisting arrest, possession of weapons and delinquent association with aim to devastate and loot.
The Genoa court concluded that the police was responsible for so many and such great lies, omissions, and falsifications committed during the search at the school that the 93 demonstrators were exonerated (falsifications included the presumed stabbing of an agent and two Molotov cocktails brought in by the police to incriminate the demonstrators).
The investigations regarding police violence, abuse and falsifications committed at the Diaz School led to the identification of 30 policemen and officers, and they will be brought to trial.
In the meantime, however, some of them have been promoted and, together with other defendants, they have requested that their trial be moved from Genoa to Turin. Yet both the Genoa Court and the Supreme Court have rejected this request. Moving the trial means it could be postponed indefinitely.
The investigations concerning torture and brutality against the demonstrators who were held in Genoa Bolzaneto have also ended. The 48 law officers, including carabinieri, police, guards and court police medical officers (doctors) will be brought to trial for having beaten, wounded, humiliated, scorned, insulted and threatened hundreds of people. Some of them were forced to stand for hours with their face against the wall in violation of every right granted to arrested persons according to Italian and European law.
Unfortunately many of the policemen and other law enforcement officers, who had their faces covered so that they could not be identified, will never be brought to trial for the violence they perpetrated on the demonstrators in the squares and at the Diaz School.

How do you feel about Genoa being called the Capital of the anti-globalization movement?

I think that a Capital of the anti-globalization movement does not exist and indeed can not exist. I think this would be simply a contradiction. The capital of the movement changes from time to time, it moves where the movement moves. After Genoa there was Florence, Paris, Solonicco, Evian, Brazil, India and it will move to other cities in the future.
Genoa was only a stage in the movement, although certainly one of the most dramatic and cruel: a young man died, hundreds were wounded and arrested, and the biggest episode of repression committed by law enforcement officials in a European country, as it was denounced by Amnesty International and the UN Commission on Human Rights, has occurred since WWII.

How is Genoa’s recent history being handled in the context of its denomination as the European Capital of Culture?

In the official program of events and in those of political parties and other associations, however, July 2001 and the G8 are not mentioned. Not one of the participants has citizens’ rights or European citizenship on their agendas: all has been forgotten, or at the very least deliberately ignored.
Our committee has demanded in a letter to the mayor of Genoa that this occasion should be utilized as an opportunity for Genoa to recuperate and to allow the hundreds of demonstrators who were abused by law enforcement officials to make peace with this city. We have asked the City of Genoa to bring civil action in trials relating to Diaz and Bolzaneto.
In addition, we have asked the mayor that Genoa should be in 2004 the European Capital of Rights and that encounters during demonstrations should be organized regarding European rights; that, along with us, Genoa ought to ask for a parliamentary commission of investigation which could shed light on the political and institutional responsibility of those who were supposed to guarantee the peaceful outcome of the demonstrations and instead allowed the systematic massacre of the demonstrators.
The mayor of Genoa has not answered our letter. In the meantime the city of Genoa has brought civil action against 26 demonstrators, making their already critical situation even worse.
I believe that without a Parliamentary commission of investigation and without the clarification of the comprehensive management during those days we can never know why, for example, none of the black block (the most radical segment of demonstrators) were stopped and why the police viciously did attack clearly peaceful demonstrators. Without investigation and clarification of all of this the position taken by the City of Genoa against the 26 demonstrators seems brusque and superficial. The death of Carlo Giuliani has been shelved with the dead files: there will never be a trial against those who killed him, there will never be a discussion regarding the cause of his death.
It seems that there is a desire to erase what the Genovese people saw and experienced: the fences, the Red Zone, the peaceful demonstrators being chased by the police and taking refuge in the houses and courtyards of the Genovese people, who could not understand what was going on. And then, at the end of all the demonstrations, the bloody repression at the Diaz School, the torture at Bolzaneto!
All of this is still Genoa for me, for my daughter, and for hundreds of Italians and foreigners. The year of European culture could have been a golden opportunity for Genoa to be something different. Unfortunately, it seems that this will not happen and the wounds risk becoming gangrenous instead of healing.

Translation: Joanne Maloney

Enrica Bartesaghi (1954)
works in Milan developing software solutions for human resources management and administration. Since July 2001 she is the president of the Committee of Truth and Justice for Genoa (www.veritagiustizia.it). Her most recent publication is “Genoa, the wrong place. Diaz, Bolzaneto, the prison: a mother’s diary” (Non Luoghi Libere Edizioni, 2004)