Killing shocks G8 summit
By HEATHER SCOFFIELD
With reports from Reuters and Associated Press
Saturday, July 21, 2001
GENOA, ITALY -- An Italian protester was killed by police in massive, violent protests at the Group of Eight summit in Italy yesterday, but Prime Minister Jean Chrétien insisted that Canada will play host to the G8 meeting next summer as planned.
After a day of running street battles between protesters and police that left more than 100 injured and dozens arrested, the leaders of Canada, Britain, Italy, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States issued a statement expressing regret for the death, condemning the violence and urging peaceful protesters to isolate lawbreakers.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi blamed isolated elements for the strife and bemoaned the "risk of distortion" in a gathering he said was meant to help the less fortunate.
The leaders did not allow the death to throw off their schedule for the three-day summit, vowing to continue with their talks on the global economy, the environment and developing countries.
Earlier, as news of the death broke, Mr. Chrétien said there would be "no cancellation" of next year's G8 meeting.
Instead, the G8 will try to find ways to diffuse the escalating violence that has come to be associated with such international meetings and refocus public attention on what is happening in the summit, not on the streets outside, Mr. Chrétien said.
Italian Interior Minister Claudio Scajola said the victim was shot by an injured paramilitary officer, presumably firing in self-defence. The man was identified as Carlo Giuliani, 23, a Rome native living in Genoa.
Witnesses saw the man prepare to throw a fire extinguisher at a police vehicle, which was surrounded by rioters who were breaking its windows with boards. Two gunshots followed and the man dropped to the ground. Witnesses said the jeep then backed over him, leaving him lying in the street with blood pouring from his head.
A woman was also reported to be close to death last night after a confrontation with police, and a police officer was in hospital recovering from what was described as a serious injury.
It was the bloodiest event so far in the mass demonstrations against globalization that started in 1998 in Seattle, and have escalated in size and intensity through Washington, Prague, this spring in Quebec City, and then in Sweden.
Last night, leaders of the Genoa Social Forum, an umbrella group organizing the more than 700 interest groups that gathered in the city for antiglobalization protests, also called for calm and blamed a small group of anarchists for the violence.
Many protesters were angered by the actions of the rioters, who appeared to have no goal in mind but to battle with police.
"It's a small minority, a few dozen people without any political ideas. They represent nothing, they're like hooligans," said Enrico Fiocchi, who is protesting against globalization. "The authorities will use this to justify setting up the Red Zone," he added, referring to the highly secured heart of the city.
Others blamed the recently elected Mr. Berlusconi, the first right-wing Italian leader in many years, for the bloodshed. When he took office in June, he quickly ramped up plans for security in Genoa -- more than 15,000 police and security troops are guarding the summit site -- and warned that he would not tolerate any violence.
At times during yesterday's running street battles with police, protesters were able to push their way to a security wall less than one kilometre from the palace where the leaders were meeting.
The violence began hours before the three-day summit officially opened, when about 200 people gathered in the Yellow Zone bordering the secured summit area, throwing cobblestones, smashing windows and setting fires to cars. Police responded with tear gas and repeated baton charges.
An unknown number of activists hurled cobblestones and Molotov cocktails, smashed windows, set fires to cars and trash bins and looted storefronts. Computers and other office equipment were flung from one office building.
Police responded with water cannon, tear gas and nightsticks, clubbing some protesters and arresting dozens.
Reuters photographer Dylan Martinez said he saw a small group of rioters, most of them wearing helmets or masks, approach a blue paramilitary jeep with wire over its windows and troopers inside.
The rioters pelted the vehicle with stones, then jumped on its roof and began breaking its windows with metal bars and planks. Police inside were screaming.
One rioter, wearing a black balaclava, raised a fire extinguisher in both hands above his head and aimed at the back of the jeep. The window shattered. Two shots rang out and the man fell to the ground.
The streets emptied quickly, except for a core group of militants who remained to scream "Assassins" over and over.
"It's terrible, this police violence. It's terrible," uttered a pale Giampiero Orsi, trembling after running away from the police and the demonstrations. "It was a shock. People are terribly angry."
On the streets after the killing, skirmishes broke out across the city centre as many demonstrators scurried back to the waterfront tents and the parking lot that have served as their headquarters.
"It's barbaric, an abomination," said a protester from Argentina who gave her name as Claudia. "I am not afraid of them. It's they who should be afraid. They should be very nervous."
Hours after the death, protesters created a makeshift shrine, heaping red flowering plants they uprooted from a nearby public garden. A piece of notebook paper, weighed down with a tear-gas canister, was scrawled with the words, "Made in G8."