A protester was shot and killed by police during demonstrations against the annual meeting of the world’s eight major industrial nations last Friday. But if you missed the news coverage over the weekend, you might not have known about it. Because by Monday, when the summit in Genoa had ended, the killing was old news.
Last August, the Phoenix published an editorial decrying the lack of outrage over brutal police tactics used against protesters at both national political conventions. (See " Pattern of Abuse, " August 24, 2000, www.bostonphoenix.com/archives/2000/documents/00520485.htm) Police fired rubber bullets into crowds, beat protesters with batons, threatened legally gathered groups of protesters with arrest if they didn’t disperse, and arrested groups of demonstrators in large sweeps that netted members of the press and nearby residents who had nothing to do with the protests. We asked: " One has to wonder: if someone had been killed during these protests, Kent State–style, would it have been more than a two-day story? We should all be concerned — under these circumstances, it’s certainly possible. "
But aside from pockets of protest, the death in Genoa has been met with contemptible silence. Aside from the immediate, dramatic coverage of the bloody shooting, the corporate media in this country have largely ignored it. There haven’t been any editorials or opinion pieces asking What It All Means. In an editorial about the Genoa summit published Monday, the New York Times mentioned the death of the demonstrator only toward the end: " But the deliberate provocations of a small number of anarchists and the harsh reaction of Italian security forces brought tragedy, leaving more than 100 seriously injured and one demonstrator shot dead. "
Harsh reaction? When protesters are violent — throwing rocks and bottles, smashing windows, even setting cars on fire — beating them back with batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets is harsh. But shooting a civilian armed with a fire extinguisher? That’s murder.
There’s no question that the victim, a 23-year-old Genovese man named Carlo Giuliani, was protesting violently when he was killed. National Public Radio’s Sylvia Poggioli reported that Giuliani, a member of an Italian faction that belonged to the anarchist Black Bloc, was one of 16 rioters or so attacking a police Land Rover filled with about five officers. The Land Rover had been cut off from other police forces. Protesters had smashed the windows of the police SUV, and Poggioli said that at least one eyewitness claimed the anarchists were trying to pull a policeman out of the vehicle. Giuliani was behind the Land Rover and was holding a fire extinguisher over his head, presumably in preparation for throwing it at the vehicle, when a police officer shot him twice in the head. One bullet entered Giuliani’s skull through his forehead. Another hit his left cheek. After the shots were fired, the Land Rover backed over Giuliani’s body. The policeman who killed Giuliani, 20-year-old Mario Placanica, claims he acted in self-defense and is now under investigation for manslaughter — which is routine in Italy when police shoot civilians.
Where is the outrage?
What were the Italian police doing with live ammunition? During protests against the European Union summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, last month, police shot a demonstrator under similarly violent conditions. That victim survived. But the incident should have taught police something about how not to respond to these protests. To be sure, Europe has a history of much more violent protest than the United States. But these globalization protests are entirely predictable. Police and politicians can count on tens of thousands of peaceful, nonviolent demonstrators protesting the secretive nature of these global summits — which is what happened in Genoa. Along with these protesters will be hundreds of others advocating myriad other causes ranging from animal rights to eradicating AIDS — which is what happened in Genoa. And there will be Black Bloc anarchists, a much smaller group responsible for nearly all the violence at anti-globalization protests — from 1999’s meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle to the European Union meeting in Sweden to the G-8 summit in Genoa. Police know in advance that these masked rioters will loot stores, set fire to cars, and attack police officers with rocks and bottles. How on earth can they be taken so much by surprise that they end up in situations like the one that led to Giuliani’s death?
The Times reported Monday that mainstream protest leaders — the ones who are nonviolent to begin with — and political leaders like Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien are committed to ensuring that the next global summit, in Canada, is nonviolent. But it’s unclear how mainstream protesters and political leaders can deal effectively with the Black Bloc — the source of violence at these protests. What is clear is that with no attempt to give meaning to the shooting — to put it in context and understand how it happened — something like it will take place again. And next time it will be even uglier.
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