Remembering Genoa

(Above: The heavy boots of the Italian military police. Image courtesy of Indymedia)

Yesterday marked a grim anniversary of sorts. Seven years ago on July 21, during the tumultuous G8 conference hosted by Italy in the Ligurian city of Genoa, Italian riot police stormed the Diaz Petrini school which had been officially designated a housing center for visiting activists, independent journalists and various protesters. Somewhere between 150 and 200 carabinieri, clad in body armor and carrying night sticks and shields, thrashed the unarmed people inside the school, most of whom were either already in their sleeping bags or preparing for bed. Dozens and dozens of people were seriously injured and then hauled off to prison.

Those arrested were later released for lack of charges, and an inquiry into the raid was launched. On July 14 of this year, fifteen police officers, guards and medics were convicted for their roles in the violence. Although as this shocking article in the UK’s Guardian points out, none of them are likely to ever go to prison due to Italy’s complicated appeals system.

Also unresolved–and it will likely remain this way–is who directed the brutal police response (One of Silvio Berlusconi’s cronies and cabinet ministers, Gianfranco Fini, the leader of Italy’s right-wing National Alliance, was allegedly at police headquarters that night). Tellingly, evidence the police claimed justified the raid was later declared false; other evidence reported confiscated during the raid was found to have been planted at the scene; it has subsequently been ‘mislaid’.

(Go here for some of the Guardian’s coverage of the violent riots and damage to Genoa during the G8 summit)

(Click here to read Nick Davies’ article about the legacy of the Diaz Petrini raid)

This all comes to mind after reading Jeremy Parzen’s posts over at Do Bianchi and VinoWire about a recent political comic parodying remarks made by once-again prime minister Silvio Berlusconi at a recent farmers’ union conference:

“I am proud of having gathered together a splendid team of young ministers,” Berlusconi told the group of commercial farmers on Friday. “But an old man’s experience was also needed. I can be compared to Brunello di Montalcino, which, as you know, gets better with age.”

A lot of room for improvement, clearly (Fini is currently the president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies). Of course as we all know, nothing in Italy (nor elsewhere for that matter) is ever quite what it seems, even the Brunello.

You would think that state sanctioned brutality, whether explicit or implicit, is something we’d move beyond in the West in the 21st century. But as the events in Genoa in 2001 demonstrate–and, perhaps much more damning–the actions of the United States during this decade, from wiretapping and domestic spying to extraordinary rendition and sanctioned torture, we’re clearly still stuck hard to a violent and brutal past.

Side note:

Below, the list of world leaders in attendance at the 2001 G8 in Genoa. It’s quite the cast of characters…

Politics, Italian Style

Between writing buckets of tasting notes and planning various trips this spring, my mind has been lost in Italy a lot recently. Like when is it not? But rarely do I think about Italian politics anymore (you really need to be living there to follow it, and even then nothing makes sense). Until of course, something like the collapse of the government happens, and then I just sort of sigh and mutter to myself, “Italia”.

And as people have been saying since Prodi won the elections not even two years ago, Silvio Berlusconi is lurking in the wings ready to pounce. In fact, he seems to be claiming that elections could happen as soon as April–just after VinItaly, which, interestingly enough, often happens. So on yet another trip to Italy I will perhaps witness another election (although it will be hard to beat the death of the Pope in 2005 for Italian style drama during VinItaly).

Oh Berlusconi. If he returns, I wonder if someone will take up the legendary Bartolo Mascarello’s crusade?


(Above: At a time when Berlusconi directly or indirectly controlled much of the media in Italy, therefore limiting any real critical look at him or his policies by mainstream sources, Bartolo Mascarello released his Barolo with a graffiti spattered label that read “No Barrique, No Berlusconi.” Can you imagine a venerable Napa Valley cabernet producer doing the same with the words “Impeach Bush” on the label?)