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Demonstrators Show Support for 25 Charged in 2001 Protests

People gathered in Genoa on Saturday, Nov. 17, to show solidarity with the 25 people currently on trial for devastation and sacking following the G8 protests in Genoa in 2001 and who face up to 225 years in prison.

According to the organizers between 50,000 to 70,000 people took part in the demonstrations in Genoa on Saturday, though the Italian authorities state between 30,000 to 35,000 people participated.

Matteo Jade is a member of the organizing committee for the demonstrations in Genoa. Carlo Bachschmidt is from the Genoa Legal Forum and is an admin consultant to the lawyers representing the 25 on trial. Both were at the protests on Saturday.

Bild: 17.11.2007 Genua

DW-WORLD.DE: Can you describe the situation there in Genoa today?

Matteo Jade: I don't want to be presumptuous, but it is really a fantastic situation here in Genoa today. When I left my house this morning there was an uncertain feeling in the air because both the authorities and most of the mainstream media had been saying for the past week that today was likely to be a protest full of incidents and violence ... and that it would have been a risky situation.

Despite this, from early this morning the areas where the protest would take place were cleared of rubbish bins and cars, thanks to the work of the local council.

A demonstrator hurls stones at police in downtown Genoa, Italy, Friday, July 20, 2001Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Genoa police were much less conspicuous in comparison with 2001

At this moment there is a river of people, of which many are locals from Genoa, and the best thing is that there are no banners or slogans representing one particular group or political party. There's just color and people and there is just one banner that marks the beginning of our march that reads "We are History."

It's a miracle that once again, as occurred during the G8 summit here in 2001, we have been able to recreate that sensation of togetherness between all the different factions within this movement. Again, the same people as were here in 2001 have reunited simply to say that we stand by the 25 currently on trial. Those 25 risk two centuries in prison and pay the price for all of us here again today."

Has there been a large police presence?

Of course the police are here, but they have been discreet. The arrangement with the police was that they would not be so visible -- not because they shouldn't be but because the situation doesn't merit it. For example, there's no helicopter flying above the protest and this for us is important from a psychological point of view because usually when these types of protests take place there are two or three helicopters that fly over head and do nothing but create a feeling of unease for us protestors.

The protest was delayed in Rostock, Germany, after a stand-off between police and protestors over whether the protestors could hide from being filmed by police. Did a similar situation occur in Genoa?

Fortunately we [the organizers] were very clear on this issue with both the city of Genoa and with the Italian Interior Ministry. The only problem has been that the trains have been arriving very late because the authorities have slowed down the arrival of people in order to reduce congestion at Genoa station. The last train arrived at 4 p.m., but the march is so long that people are still able to join it despite these delays.”

Why is it important to remember what happened during the G8 protests in Genoa in 2001?

It's important because in this moment there's people such as the magistrates and an entire system that wants to forget what really happened in Genoa in 2001 and re-write history by saying that the G8 protestors were a violent group that set the city on fire. For the first time in history in Italy the charge of devastation and sacking has been brought against a group of protestors. This is an absurd charge. In our opinion the real criminals are those who opened fire and killed.

Police watch as protesters block the roads around Heiligendamm, Germany, Wednesday, June 6, 2007. Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Protesters at June's G8 summit in Heiligendamm Heiligendamm also spanned the political spectrum

This is a protest against all of those people in politics, the media and the lawyers who want to re-write history saying that the July 2, 2001 was the day when a violent group of people destroyed the city. In reality it was a grand moment for Italy because it was one of the biggest protests this country has seen in the post World War II era and it was the first time different groups, from nuns to anarchists, came together to protest against the G8.

I think that it is really those in the G8 who cause the real devastation in the world. For this reason it's so important to be here in Genoa today because it is the only way we can try to stop them from re-writing history and to remind everyone that we are still here.

How important is it to have a protest happening in Rostock, northern Germany, at the same time?

It's really important because it's necessary for this movement to re-group and to continue to protest. It also gives this protest a European-wide feeling. Furthermore, Rostock is where the last G8 summit was held and today it's important to show the G8 that there are hundreds of people who think that there’s another way to do things and that another type of world is possible.

Why did you decide to take part in the protest?

Carlo Bachschmidt: It's an obligation for all of us who have been working for the past six years on the legal team for these 25 people on trial, and it's important that people know what really happened during the G8 protests, not only in the courtroom but on the streets.

During the trials of these 25 people charged with devastation and sacking, the prosecutors in Genoa have asked for penalties that amount to 225 years in prison. These are very serious charges in Italy. These charges are being defended not only because they effect 25 people, who did not necessarily cause damage during those two days but were there in the square during the protests, but because should a similar situation happen again then this same charge could easily be applied. This would greatly impose on the right to public protest in Italy.


Source: www.dw-world.de