In 2001 I was 22 years old and was at university, complaining about the amount of exams I had to do. That year in July, while many others went to Genoa for the G8 protests, I went back home to Rome, not convinced Genoa would have been the right place for me, and not being part of a group I could go with. I didn’t feel I really belonged anywhere and I was too shy to go on my own.
What happened in Genoa, we all know. Afterwards, the Genoa Social Forum, instead of staying united against the horrifying violence of the State, broke apart, with the pacifist and more mainstream sections dissociating themselves from the most radical groups, as if being a radical (anarchist, communist, or whatever) could justify being beaten to a pulp by the police. As if to say that the radical groups within the Forum and their tactics had provoked the violent reaction of the police. As if to say that, because of the same existence of radicals, the police were justified in their violent reaction towards anyone on their path, young and elderly, radicals and pacifists, parents running with screaming children in their arms.
I don’t think anyone, pacifist included, REALLY expected the G8 protests to be utterly and completely peaceful and trouble-free. If anyone did, they were incredibly naive. Anyhow, I think even the naive changed their minds after Carlo Giuliani’s death. But I can put my hand on my heart when I say that most people didn’t expect the atrocities that took place after Giuliani’s death (as if that hadn’t been enough): people being viciously attacked at the Diaz school, getting brutalised at Bolzaneto, forced to sing Fascist songs, threatened with rape and torture, their piercings ripped off their bodies. A few had predicted it, but they sounded like isolated lunatics to most. Not that people weren’t aware of how fucked up Italy is, believe me, most of us are painfully aware of it. But I think we believed “certain things” weren’t possible. Or, at least, I speak for myself.
My generation only heard about the horrors of Fascism and the Second World War through grandparents and elderly friends. We are also too young to remember the tragedies of the Years of Lead, when the American secret services financed Italian conservative parties and Fascist groups to destabilise Italy and avert the Communist “threat” (Italy had a Communist Party then, and many other radical left-wing groups). I was only a baby when the Fascists blew up Bologna train station in 1980, killing 85 people and injuring another 200. I know about these events by the stories I have been told by those older than me, by books and documentaries. Despite being part of my history, they seemed remote. Genoa is the moment that brought it all back, that showed that the past was still present.
Genoa gave us a painful, terrible revelation: that no-one is safe, anywhere, ever. That “certain things” don’t happen only in remote “Third World” countries, like some people use to call them, as if being part of the First World was a guarantee to hold with pride.
The second revelation of bleeding Genoa was this: that Italy will never rid itself of the poisonous cancer we call Fascism. That it’s not just a matter of a few “bad apples” here and there. Fascism is alive and well, and for my generation Genoa was its peak. Genoa made it clear for all that the whole fucking apple tree is rotten at its roots.
I wasn’t in Genoa 10 years ago, and I wasn’t in Genoa this year for the anniversary, this time with a better excuse – I live abroad. But I went in September, while on holiday, to meet up with an old friend from university. I wanted to see Piazza Alimonda, where Carlo Giuliani was murdered. Yes, MURDERED. I kept asking myself if I was being morbid about it, but I still wanted to go. We got there and I started looking: I wanted to see the plaque. After his death, people had written over the original street plaque, crossing out the word “Alimonda” and changing into “Piazza Carlo Giuliani”. Finally we realised the old plaque had been replaced, and that a new one had been put in a little lawn at the centre of the square, like a little monument. People were happily drinking coffee and chatting away in the square’s bar. It seemed so surreal. I guess in my head I was imagining the square to have become some kind of activist temple, with people going there like pilgrims. It hasn’t, and life carries on as usual in Genoa and the rest of Italy.
“All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.”
(W. B. Yeats, Easter 1916)