On July 20th 2001 there was a palpable tension in the air of the historic port city of Genova in Northern Italy. Silvio Berlusconi was playing host to a meeting of the G8 economic powers and hundreds of thousands of people had converged from all over the world to show and to voice their opposition to the direction these world leaders were taking us. Carlo Giuliani was one of the rebels in the crowd that day who fought back when the Italian and International police forces violently cracked down on the Global resistance movement. Eyewitness accounts by residents of Genova described the scene as a war zone and detailed how the military and police units attacked anyone who was on the streets indiscriminately. One young man on his way to the beach was beaten to the ground by riot police in a cloud of tear gas. Old women and shopkeepers were attacked on their city streets just for being there. This was the New World Order showing its most ugly and violent of faces to send a signal to those of us who believe that another world is possible!, as George Bush, Silvio Berlusconi, Tony Blair and the others smirked over fine wines and a fancy lunch.
Carlo Giuliani was young and idealistic and happy to add his voice and muscle to the growing international movement for a world that values human dignity and the integrity of our natural environment over corporate profits and capitalist plunder. His father was a leader of the communist trade Union CGIL and he came from a family rooted in struggle for the rights of working people with a deep respect for real democracy and humanity.
It seemed that despite lacking a completely cohesive revolutionary strategy, the global movement was heading in the right direction and an international unification of struggle was coming together. 1999’s Battle for Seattle had inspired the forces opposed to global capitalism’s human exploitation and devastating effects on the environment the world over. Further remarkable actions against George Bush’s stolen election and inauguration, at the World Bank/IMF meeting in Washington D.C., and at the G7+1 meeting in Okinawa, Japan lead up to the G8 meeting in Genova, Italy. Simultaneously to these mass mobilizations and actions that were making it increasingly difficult for the world’s most powerful leaders to meet, strategies for Another Possible World were in the making. Finding its roots in the Zapatista uprising on the day that the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect and in the First International Encuentro for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism in 1996, the World Social Forum met for the first time in Porto Allegre Brazil in June of 2001. It continues to outline and develop a vision for a post industrial capitalist world today.
Carlo Giuliani was not ignorant of these developments, but was versed in the development of this global movement. He, like most young Italians, had been raised with knowledge of Gramsci, Marx, Malatesta, Sacco and Vanzetti. Communism and Anarchism are part of the Social Fabric in Italy, not obscure and scary as they are to most Americans raised in corporatist isolationism, and with little knowledge of their own history let alone others.
Genova, one of Italy’s famed Italian port cities, hometown of Christopher Columbus and historic center of global commerce and trade proved to be the stage where the Western capitalist police forces showed their viciousness, and like a desperate and cornered beast lashed out violently with their chemicals and guns to send a message of repression to those of us that believe Another World is Possible!! As word spread through the assembled masses of the indiscriminate violence being used by the police to attack the crowds, and as Carlo and his comrades were themselves attacked, they responded with spontaneous and passionate outrage as they engaged in street battles with the jackbooted thugs that had been ordered to attack everyone on the streets. Carlo Giuliani was shot at close to point blank range and then run over both backwards and forwards by a Carabinieri police jeep. He was then left to die on the streets as his fellow rebels and the world looked on in disbelief and horror.
At 23 years old Carlo Giuliani was the first Western European killed in the newly energized and rising global struggle against Capitalism, but he was not the only victim that day. There was a well coordinated, systematic and full fledged attack led by the Italian police forces to repress this demonstration at all costs. Later that evening two schools that were housing activists and journalists were raided by police forces who proceeded to torture and beat people that were sleeping on the floors. Three people were left in comas, one suffered brain damage and hundreds were injured. People reported being spat and urinated upon by the police, as well as repeatedly beaten in the G8’s first condoned use of torture, setting precedence for the terror wars in post 9-11 Afghanistan and Iraq.
The murder of Carlo Giuliani and the human rights violations and violence suffered by the people challenging the G8’s global dominion did not go un prosecuted. Carlo Giuliani’s mother Haidi, a retired school teacher and human rights crusader, became a senator for the Refounded Communist Party in 2006 and help lead the creation of an Investigative Commission into the facts surrounding the violence in Genova. After years of stalling and obstruction, some convictions have been carried out against isolated police officers and state medics. However, the entire legal process from the European Court of Justice on down to the Italian court system has been seen as an obvious collusion with the Italian authorities to cover-up the strategy to repress the movement with a coordinated violent clampdown on the demonstration from the top on down the chain of command. Much like in the United States where isolated American soldiers were tried and convicted for torture in Iraq, the criminals at the top have been let off the hook and often times rewarded. The commander of the Carabinieri that shot Carlo Giuliani was promoted to Major in the Iraq war, and the courts ruled that the bullet that killed Carlo ricocheted off of a flying rock. Video of the shooting that can easily be seen on youtube shows clearly that a gun was pointed squarely at Carlo’s head.
While the global corporate media quickly attempted to paint Carlo Giuliani as a troubled street thug type youth, this story didn’t fly for long in Italy as his well respected parents came to the forefront quickly to dispel these myths. Many historians have attempted to blame the violence in Genova on the failings of an undefined and uncoordinated movement, this too is a myth. The reality of Genova is that the global economic powers decided to draw their line and strike back forcefully against the rapidly expanding movement for economic, social and environmental justice. Our cockiness in thinking that the world’s leaders would only be able to meet in very remote locations or on the international space station were quickly and violently squashed.
Ten years later the disaster of the global economy is more evident than any of us could have imagined and the truths of the resistance movement ring truer than ever: the censorship in the media, the repression of citizens like Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, the BP oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, Yellowstone River and now on the Alaskan Tundra, the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe, tar sands, fracking, climate change, the eternal wars spreading from the Middle East and Asia to Africa, the dismantling of social safety nets and public programs across the world through fraudulent “austerity” measures as the poor get poorer and the rich continue to get richer are clear evidence that our predictions of planetary disaster are coming to a head.
The promises of global progress and enough wealth to go around for everyone if we just let the “free market” reign have proven to be hollow lies. NAFTA, GATT, the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank have proven to be nothing but instruments in the criminal ponzy scheme of global capitalism. If Carlo Giuliani were alive today he’d still be struggling along side his family and be excited for this past years referendum victory in Italy, and the global uprisings from Egypt to Greece and from Barcelona to Madison. As Carlo’s mother put it this week, her son’s death “has still not received the justice it deserves,” and nor have we or has our Earth. Carlo’s father, Giuliano Giuliani, put it like this “Carlo is not a martyr, nor is he a hero, he is a young man that reacted to a profound injustice.” To honor his memory let us hope that we can all do the same.
Michael Leonardi is a writer, educator and activist. He splits his time between North America and Italy and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org