Wu Ming 4, from the writing collective Wu Ming, has commented on the conviction of five militants charged with “destruction and looting”, for the incidents that occurred during the anti-G8 demonstrations in July 2001.
It is important to underline that the crime they are accused of is a political crime, a crime against public order with a political aim, and the law is operating to repress any undermining of state authority. The conviction of the five militants was based only on photographs of their participation in the demonstrations that simply prove their presence and support. Very different from the “common damage”, this crime is compared with an act of subversion and in this case was punished with a very high sentence, in one case 14 years, more than a sentence for murder.
The text, originally in Italian, was published in Spanish in the latest issue of Rebellion. A French version is also available on the personal blog of the writer Serge Quadruppani. We are providing an English translation.
Genoa 2001 and the 10×100 sentence: Paths of Glory
It is clear that tonight there is no glory. And tomorrow there will be no horizon*. Indeed, the very title of Stanley Kubrick’s movie (one of the most effective denunciations of the anti-human foolishness of militarism) was antiphrastic. The plot is a well-known one: during World War I, on the Western Front, an inept French general launches an impossible assault against a German fortress. The French troops are unable even to leave their trenches, are driven back and are mown down by heavy machine-gun fire. The assault becomes a huge slaughter. In order to avoid being considered incompetent, the general blames the cowardice of his own troops; he demands the execution of 100 randomly chosen soldiers. The high command reduces the original number to three. Three scapegoats will pay for everyone, even if it is nobody’s fault; the guilty are those who were in charge and those who wanted the war.
Tonight, the Italian justice system is not unlike the military trial represented by Kubrick (whose movie was based on a true story). There, too, we find a good defense attorney defeated by a grotesque sentence, as absurd as a caricature.
Similarly, the Italian justice system has decided that five people will pay for everybody, and five more could be adding their names to the count. In this way, a sort of political parity is reached with the sentences given to the policemen responsible for the assault on the Diaz school. It matters little that the policemen were sentenced for their beating and premeditated slaughter of unarmed and defenseless people, while the protesters were charged of destroying things, inanimate objects, in the midst of general chaos. It makes no difference; some of the protesters will spend ten years in jail.
Ten years. This is, more or less, the same amount of time that has passed since then. In the meantime, the lives of those people have changed, becoming something totally different from what they were then. In the meantime, the material damage has been repaired, the insurance companies have paid up, and the world itself has changed. In the meantime, the images of Genoa during those events, of the police repression, of the climate that had been artfully created and promoted, were broadcast nonstop on every single medium and have become part of the collective imagination. In the meantime, dozens of documentaries and movies have been produced, dozens of books have been published, and rivers of ink have flowed about the G8 in Genoa. And after all was said and done, we still heard the sentence which called for ten people, metaphorically extracted by the luck of the draw, to pay the price. All based on the wrong footage, based on a picture taken at the wrong moment. The convicted protesters are very much like the three soldiers of Kubrick’s movie.
I was in Genoa on that July of 11 years ago. I was behind the first row of plexiglass shields in Via Tolemaide when the demonstration was attacked in cold blood and suffocated with teargas while marching along a stretch of an authorized route. Behind our backs, there were 10,000 people who could not be stopped. The only way out, the only way to save ourselves and to avoid being crushed, was to react against the police by all possible means; and in the end, after the catastrophe, between the battle and death, we had to protect the tail-end of the march, which was retreating under the attack of water cannons. I was there the following day as well, with many others, when we had to hike up alleys and lanes, with helicopters above our heads, to the highest point of Genova, in order to bring back everyone safely.
I could have been one of them: one of the soldiers chosen by chance. Instead I am here, writing in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. I know that tomorrow things will be better, I will be able to sleep a bit more, and that little by little I will have the luxury of looking back at all of this as a bad memory from long ago. They won’t be so lucky. The lives they’ve led over the past 11 years come to an abrupt end and Genoa begins all over again.
This country is getting what it deserves. In the Genoa of 2001 we were protesting against the oligarchic power of the large international economic organisms. Back then, we were thinking especially of the disastrous effects of the failed neo-liberal policies imposed on the poorest countries by the IMF, devastating their economies with its threats and strangling them through debt. Now we are being given the same “treatment”. Italy is currently run by non-elected commissioners of the European Central Bank, and they are applying the same “prescription”, one consisting of wild cutbacks to the public budget, and whose final aim is very simply described by one sentence: save the rich.
We were right.
The enemy holds its hostages.
Until the tide rises once again.
*NT: The term “horizon” makes reference to the Italian translation of Kubrick’s movie, which reads “Orizzonti di gloria” (literally: Glorious Horizons).