Trading Blows-The G8 in Genoa

· Jul 26, 2001 Tweet

Tactical fighters flew overhead, while naval cruisers below maintained a constant radar sweep. The twisting roads of the ancient city were barred by heavy steel grilles and walls of shipping containers surrounding an empty quarter, the Red Zone, where man-hole covers were welded shut, trash cans removed, shops closed and streets lined with military police. The Group of Eight, or G8, summit in Genoa, Italy illustrated the almost surreal war zone that has begun to haunt summits of world leaders in the new century.

Over 100,000 protesters battled thousands of police in clashes that reached a fever pitch of violence. Both the protest leaders and the world leaders attending the summit expressed shock after it was reported that one protester had been fatally shot by a miltary policeman. In clashes on that grim opening day of the G8, 184 people were injured and 67 arrested. By Saturday, fearful of reprisals for Friday’s shooting, police raided the headquarters of a major protest organization, located in a school about a quarter mile outside the Red Zone. Fighting continued through Saturday, although casualties and arrests dropped by half.

Genoa was left in virtual ruin, with smashed shop windows, burnt-out cars and streets covered in broken glass. The aims of the G8 summit and any accomplishments that arose from it have been eclipsed almost completely by the melee of rioters and riot police exchanging volleys of rocks and bottles, teargas and water canons. To their Italian hosts, the summit left a massive expenditure on security that may be as high as $100 million.

It is a telling testament to the state of international politics that this kind of spectacle has become the norm. Leaders meet cloistered behind walls and riot police while activists demand a voice. In the end, any hope of progress is lost. There are many good intentions and few results.

Jean Cretien of Canada, who will host the next international summit in 2002, has indicated that Canada’s event may be held in a remote site in the Rocky Mountains, where the inhospitable environment will aid in deterring any significant number of protesters. It is a sign of times to come, as such summits as the G8 become ever more remote, far-flung and exclusive. They will retreat to the ends of the earth and in their very security and secrecy they will become nonentities.

For productive dialogue on globalization issues to survive and be discussed rationally, what is necessary is not a mountain stronghold but the cultivation of a new spirit of openness. Those who resort to violence are those who thrive on ignorance. Conducting meetings in the far reaches of the Rocky Mountains can only foster increasing mistrust and distort the true value of international free trade. Like Pavlov’s dog, we have begun to equate globalization with fear and violence, and in such a climate hyperbole and hysteria will continue to thrive and discussion drowned out and soon forgotten.


This article was published Jul 26, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Jul 26, 2001 at 12:00 am


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