Summit riots’ aftermath in Genoa: anger, recriminations – and a battered city
GENOA, Italy (AP) – Broken glass, spent tear gas canisters and smashed yellow cobblestones littered this seaside city Sunday, the streets finally tranquil after two days of anti-globalization protests that left one dead and nearly 500 injured.
Almost 180 people, including at least three U.S. citizens, were arrested in police sweeps that continued into the early hours of Sunday. Some face serious criminal charges that could be leveled even as they lie in hospital beds, injured in street battles that raged outside the summit of industrial powers.
In nearly two years of such clashes on the sidelines of world gatherings, these were by far the most intense, and the first to result in a fatality – a 23-year-old marcher shot dead by paramilitary police during Friday’s fighting.
As many as 100,000 marchers took to the streets to press environmental, social and economic causes mainly linked to global trade and its fallout; The hard core of young anarchists who confronted police with rocks and firebombs constituted perhaps a few thousand.
Demonstrators blamed police heavy-handedness for the mayhem. ”I think Il Duce (Mussolini) would have handled it better,” said 28-year-old Italian protester Marco Saladinitria as he boarded a train out of Genoa.
Tens of thousands of protesters embarked on a mass exodus even before the summit ended, on specially chartered trains or by car and bus.
Premier Silvio Berlusconi had hoped the Group of Eight summit would showcase this proud onetime city-state, but he spent Sunday touring neighborhoods battered by rioting.
When he visited City Hall to hear pleas from Mayor Guiseppe Pericu for reconstruction aid, some neighbors stuck their heads out of apartments to yell at him, ”Shame, shame, shame!”
Italy’s Cabinet was to weigh an emergency $45 million reconstruction package Monday.
A soccer stadium that had served as a tent dormitory for protesters was padlocked and deserted on Sunday. Outside were heaps of makeshift body armor, fashioned from cardboard, foam padding and mineral-water bottles.
A few hours after the summit leaders left town, workers began dismantling miles of tall steel-mesh barricades surrounding Genoa’s medieval center and part of its old port.
In street after street along and near the routes taken by marchers, windows of businesses were smashed, with banks and car dealerships favored targets.
In one part of downtown, it was impossible to find a working automatic-teller machine; all had been vandalized. Road signs were torn from their posts, used as shields by the demonstrators. The carcasses of torched cars dotted thoroughfares.
”The demonstrators deliberately destroyed the city,” said university professor Antonio Chirico, who lives near the scene of clashes. ”It was a major mistake for Genoa to host this summit, but we all realized too late.”
Police detained 85 people during the two days of clashes and arrested another 93 people on Sunday morning in a predawn raid on a school compound used as protest headquarters.
”They just went bang into the building – people screamed,” said eyewitness Caroline Terzaghi, 38, a protest organizer. ”They made people lie on the floor, they beat us up, they were throwing computers around, they were hitting everyone. There was blood everywhere.”
Sixty-one of those arrested were taken to hospitals. Protesters said dozens were beaten during the raid, but police said many of those hospitalized had suffered injuries in prior clashes.
All those arrested in Sunday’s raid were charged with possession of firebombs and with criminal association in order to commit vandalism, police said.
Authorities described those arrested in the raid as instigators of violence, and displayed sledgehammers, knives, a pickax and black hoods seized in the raid.
Protesters said police also confiscated documents, computer files and videotapes of the demonstration, but police spokesman Roberto Sgalla denied that.
Pope John Paul II, speaking from his lakeside summer residence, said Sunday he felt ”pain and sadness for the hostility that erupted” at the summit. ”Violence is not the path to reach a fair solution to the current problems,” said the pope, who is meeting Monday with President Bush.
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