I guess there must have been about one hundred and fifty Irish on our campsite (apparently there was another 100 to 150 elsewhere), an initial group of 50 odd on one bus, joined later by another bus of fifty as well as various stragglers who made their own way over. The main political bodies present were Gluiaiseacht for Global Justice, a new network of Student Green and One World societies with a good emphasis on non-violent direct action and direct democracy, and Globalise Resistance, which in Ireland, on a local level at least, is not the out and out Socialist Workers Party front it is in Britain (i.e. it has other folk in it).
Apart from these there was a wide selection of individuals of every shade of opinion and from every corner of the island and beyond.
The constant whirr of the police helicopters, the screech of tyres, the wail of sirens and the hundreds of police trucks formed a tense background to setting up camp. The "Red Zone", the area around the centre of the city, where the G8 summit was taking place, was ringed by at least three layers of fences of metal mesh, sort of like the anti-mortar nets on British Army bases. Huge containers like the ones used on goods trains or trucks also formed police barricades. Genoa, with it's hills, narrow roads and stairs instead of streets was perhaps not the best place for this sort of demonstration.
As with many continental States, a considerable slice of the Italian police is of a heavy duty paramilitary nature akin to R.U.C. . In the week leading up to the events they carried out many controls (I.D. checks) and arrested some people from the Irish group.
The involvement of Gluiaiseacht (Gaelic for movement) and the anarchistic sentiments of many of the free floating individuals helped ensure a healthy democracy. Decisions were made at group assemblies with smaller independent sections doing there own thing for the day of action itself.
With our varying points of view we represented a microcosm of the movement as a whole, and I'm pleased to say the anarchist presence meant that it was harder to write us off as violent nutcases or as anti-organisation dreamers. Despite political disagreements and natural tensions there was a strong sense of solidarity. It is of maximum importance that we, the anarchists, do not isolate ourselves but are in the midst of opposition movements, promoting our viewpoints and learning from others in the ferment of ideas. On a related note I'm sad to say that in Genoa generally, and perhaps I'm wrong, I saw next to no effort to spread anarchism among the vast multitude of activists there. The Genoa Social Forum (G.S.F.)organised a "counter summit" with various big name personalities, as far as I'm concerned we had our own counter summit with every second chat among the diverse collection of individuals that made up the Irish group, on everything from squatting in Brixton to repression in West Papua. The G.S.F. also planned the day of direct action and civil disobedience to take place on the opposite side of the sealed of Red Zone from where the campsites and sleeping accommodation were. As we shall see this proved problematic.
I'm sorry to say the G.S.F. run "convergence centre" looked and felt like something out of a big rock festival with inflated prices and what looked like corporate sponsorship (i.e. bars selling one type of beer). A minor gripe? Not when it's the only open supply of food and people are reduced to picking up scraps from the table. Isn't this what we are fighting against? On a more positive note free water and occasionally free food was provided.
On Friday, the Day of Action, the Irish grouping divided and went with three larger blocs, the Pink bloc, the Red bloc and the Black bloc. One problem was that many more would have marched with the Black Bloc but for apprehensions about violence, but I think a peaceful anarchist bloc is a non-runner as it's peaceful nature will not be respected by the police which is of course the point of the Black Bloc in the first place. That said I read that most anarchists were in the a bloc with Cobas and not in the Black Bloc, but I cannot comment on what went on there as I was not there.
The Pink bloc was a colourful, pacific, fluffy gathering with street theatre and dancing, as I understand it, it was attacked by the police, with water cannon and tear gas, both before, after and during the time it was at the first of the fences surrounding the Red Zone.
The Red Bloc was where the International Socialists marched, with Globalise Resistance Ireland following, again they were attacked by the police, baton charged.
The ethos of the Black Bloc is best summed up by the saying from Gothenburg "Police Attack We Fight Back". Contrary to what you may have heard it was not exclusively anarchist or even libertarian (although that was by far the dominant tendency) and it was from everywhere in Europe and Northern America. One section of it formed up in our campsite and went on to converge with a larger group which included many from Cobas, the Italian syndicalist movement, and some which were dressed like Ya Basta!. We were now thousands strong. Unfortunately we were later to divide, most likely due to the chaos produced by aerial bombardment with tear gas. We were regularly tear gassed as the section I was with marched around attempting to get to the far side of the Red Zone.
During these hours we arrived in a park/square where the pink bloc was rallying after being driven from the security fence by the police, this event has since been interpreted as the black bloc attempting to use the pink as cover, a notion which credits the black bloc with an amazing amount of foresight, organisation and strategic thinking.
After this we got our brief glimpse of the security fence, as we advanced down a hill toward it, giant wheelie bins leading the way, our path was blocked by a line of pacifists as was our immediate escape route. This is not a violence versus non-violence issue, these people were imposing their agenda on us. When the tear gas canisters went off these pacifist police got the violence they presumably regard as
legitimate and acceptable from the real police. With this ignoble piece of sabotage the black bloc haemorrhaged more of it's people, including ourselves, it was now evening time and the next route to the red zone was decidedly unfavourable (down a flight of stairs), so we started to make our way back across the city. While doing so we cam across Pinks and Reds who were apparently surrounded on all sides. The leaders of the Pinks and Reds negotiated a "safe passage" through police lines, to get back to the other side of the red zone, while a street or two away the Blacks fought on. This "safe passage" I thought was an invitation for a massacre but apparently they merely thumped their shields and arrested a number of still masked people, perhaps a reflection of what Globalise Resistance describe as the 'no threat they pose to the Genoa police' (from IndyMedia Italy news bulletin distributed in Genoa).
Firstly the Black Bloc did a lot of property damage, some of it sensible: banks, porn shops, petrol stations, expensive cars, supermarkets; some of it stupid: traffic lights, bus shelters, cheaper cars; and some of it lunatic: starting a fire in a office above which was a apartment bloc. A prison was also attacked. Good or Bad did this not just delay us? There was a lot of talk in the aftermath about small shops being attacked, but what is a "small shop", a McDonalds or Shell franchise is a small shop, is a small shop which exploits 20 preferably to a chain store which exploits 20,000 but only 20 in a single branch, the question of small shops is only of relevance if you are only opposed to Multi-National capitalism. I am opposed to all of it, Private or State, National or International, Small or Large. Besides Multi-Nationals are sometimes preferable to "small shops".
I think in this day you will find few owner operated commercial premises. In any case I think this was just a pointless delay, but one dwarfed by the time wasting getting to the area approved by the G.S.F. for direct action. That said I understand and appreciate the symbolism involved but I think it was the point of the event was to take action against the summit.
I have not seen the detailed reports and photos outlining the actions of agent provocateurs but if they were there I'm not surprised, after all we have seen the Italian state repeat it's tactic of planting bombs and blaming the opposition, just as the British state has planted bombs and blamed the I.R.A. and so on. However I have read a report, claiming to be from the brother of G.S.F. chieftain Vittorio Agnoletto, which credits the Black Bloc with all protester self defence, and describes the Black Bloc as a bunch of German (bigotry, there is a strong and deep stream of anti-German bigotry in Italy, which has a German minority) agent provocateurs who operated with immunity from police action. Well it did not feel like that when the tear gas canisters were flying forth at point blank range. He seems to forget that Carlo Giuliani was an anarchist who died fighting the police/state.
I think it was a waste of time and energy for the government to employ agents in this way, for the fact is, that their use of pseudo-Black Blockers (which were in small groups separate from the Black Bloc) was intended to drive a wedge between the Black Bloc and the liberal reformists, but the liberal reformists are so eager to attack the Black Bloc with ludicrous claims such as those detailed above that they need not have bothered. They may have put people inside the actual Black Bloc to do stupid, counter-productive things, but again I think the unfortunate reality is that this was un-necessary as we appear to have enough home-grown fools.
I think we could unite around non-violent direct action, but where was the non-violent direct action, blockading the streets so delegates cannot enter a summit is direct action but marching is not, marching, protesting, is saying 'Please Mr.Capitalism Abolish Yourself' . If pacifists find a non-violent way to shut down a Governmental conference in a city which is turned into a medieval fortress then I am with them but I will not travel for three days to ask any government to do anything because that is as useful as a sunroof on a submarine.
As far as I'm concerned the level of state violence was in no way alien to a 'liberal democratic parliamentary West European' state, in fact they can do much worse.
In many ways the violence non-violence issue boils down to this: how much violence do you expect from the state and do you think that the system can be reformed.
I have not seen much of the newspapers and T.V. back home, none at all in fact, but I have heard some stories of the bullshit they have been spreading. The media will lie, distort, or ignore, get used to it! After all it is a part of what we are against , so what can we expect.
There is no way we can reform the media and the only way to counter it's lies is to be there active in communities and unions, spreading an alternative view.
Some ways in which we could perhaps address the agent provocateurs problem as well as the problem of straight forward idiotic behaviour and kids out for a fun day out is for the local movement to provide stewarding and overall direction to the black bloc. The local movement (who know the area) determine the nature of the action and calling on organisations elsewhere to provide groups to support them, with someone from each couple of groups to liase with the local movement. Steward units would be specialised as with medical units and would act to direct the course of the march and prevent persons from doing stupid things. This is just a tentative suggestion, but from what I saw in Genoa, more organisation and more prior organisation is needed. Also these events should not just be opportunities for direct action but also opportunities to spread anarchist ideas.
Although condemnation from all quarters has faced the Black Bloc since Genoa it seems that some of the more moderate groupings are moving in our direction, forced to do so due to the police actions. For instance,Francesco Caruso, leader of the No Global network says of September's proposed NATO summit in Naples that:
"Against NATO we will not be unarmed. We will not take to the streets unprepared for clashes. They will have to shoot us to stop us."
(quoted on the Guardian website) .