Be young and shut up

A blog about student activism.

Carlo Giuliani lives: the struggle continues

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‘We feel ourselves linked to men who are now extremely old, and who represent us for the past which still lives among us, which we need to know and to settle our accounts with, which is one of the elements of the present and one of the premises of the future. We also feel ourselves linked to our children, to the generations which are being born and growing up, and for which we are responsible’.

(Gramsci, 1971:147).

Guest post by Ledys Sanjuan Mejia, a student at the University of Edinburgh whose interests include smashing capitalism, smashing the patriarchy, smashing fascism (the fash), freedom for Palestine and LGBT+ rights. She has written this in memory of Carlo Giuliani.

On the 20th of June 2001, Italian police brutally assassinated Carlo Giuliani at an anti-capitalist demonstration during the G8 meeting in Genoa, Italy. The Italian state police forces callously repressed 300,000 protesters, in an attempt at intimidating protesters into silencing their dissenting voices against the exploitative system that is capitalism. The police proved effectively instrumental to defend the capitalist system challenged by protesters; such a violent response from the State unveils the separation of politics and economics as one of the many illusions of the liberal capitalist system. Our older brothers and sisters fought and demonstrated against that system to be persecuted, tortured and scared into accepting that neo-liberal globalisation was a fact, a natural evolution of our economic system that no one should question, let alone reject. Ten years ago today we should remember what the students of that generation were fighting against and what they strove for, and contrast that with what we are fighting against and what we want out of the society we live in.

The current crisis is necessarily linked with the expansion of neo-liberal ideology since the 80s. Just as history did not end, neither did the catastrophic consequences of de-regulation and relentless expansion of free trade throughout the world. Those demonstrating in Genoa were however, demonstrating not because their own lives were particularly harmed by the expansion of neo-liberal ideology, but because this expansion had caused massive gaps of inequality and environmental degradation worldwide, whilst everyday happenings proved that wealth at the top was not and would not trickle down. Now, the re-birth of the student movement, the (re) politicization of trade unions and the wave of general and mass strikes in Europe and the UK tell the story of the inevitable crisis caused by the massive accumulation produced by the boom of neo-liberalism. To be clear, the current wave of demonstrations, strikes and dissent in Europe are a response to the 2008 crisis and have markedly different content, i.e. defending public education, pensions, protecting the welfare state, etc. However, these are symptoms of the same disease that prompted Seattle and Genoa in 1999: neo-liberal capitalism. The student movement in Europe thus must always keep in mind that this is not a new struggle, that eventually the accumulation of wealth was going to gnaw at schools, universities, health systems, pensions and so on to the most basic rights western societies take for granted.

Crucially, it is important to understand State repression and policing during Seattle and Genoa, to understand State repression and policing today. I visited my brother in Italy this summer, his wife was a committed anti-capitalist and she was at Genoa. She confirmed what I had read before, police were only confronting the most moderate and peaceful contingents of the demonstration. She told me Blac Block activists could walk in front of police; she even saw some of them speaking to police whilst she was being bombed with tear gas. We were driving towards a town close by, when we stopped to get a snack, one of the employees had been with her in the Battle of Genoa, she told me he had been hit in the head so hard and so many times his speech was impaired for two months and his learning abilities had been so severely damaged, he had not been able to return to university. She then told me about his best friend who had been left permanently on a wheelchair after police grabbed him by the legs and hit his back continuously.

A few weeks later I attended ‘Marxism’ the left-wing festival organised by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in which after realising other meetings I wanted to attend were full, I accidentally ended up at a meeting named ‘Genoa: 10 years on’. The speaker described how during the demonstration he and his fellow anti-capitalists had escaped the tear gas and safely arrived at the school where they were staying. In the middle of the night, the police stormed the building; people ran up to the top and were cornered. Ninety-three protesters, one after the other were arrested, beaten and humiliated. Police cut protesters hair, forced them to chant ‘Viva El Duche’ (Viva Mussolinni), and systematically beat and tortured them. In the next few weeks, solidarity protests all around Europe disseminated calling for the release of those arrested during Genoa, and called for the trial and imprisonment of police officers. Effectively, after these protests fifteen police, including high ranking officers, were prosecuted and all the protesters were released and their charges were dropped.

Today, although we have not experienced the brutal repression of Genoa or Seattle, we have come very close, and I believe is going to get worse. Kettling, being the most common police tactic is directed at scaring students into going to demonstrations, whilst at the same time being a sort of street prison for mass demonstrators. Students attending protests are being victimised.  Those at Millbank have police
turning up in their homes, interrogating relatives, friends and acquaintances for information about their Orwellian status as enemies of the State. At one point Home Secretary Teresa May suggested the use of water cannons! And finally, now every time we remember Carlo Giuliani we also have to remember Alfie Meadows, who suffered a brain injury when struck by a police officer during the demonstration against tuition fees in early December last year. We remember them not only because they are our comrades, but also because they represent the (un) limited reach of police brutality to defend not only the State but the capitalist system we live in today. I greatly admire Carlo Giuliani, Alfie Meadows, but also my sister-in-law, the bloke in the Auto-stop, those whose hair was cut off, those who’ve been kettled and everyone else that goes out there and challenges this rotten system. We need to remember that we can win, but we have to be willing to fight.

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Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

August 4, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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