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SIFE president recalls Genoa G8 meeting

Opinion by Stefano Lapasini

 

As the world prepares for the November meeting of the G8 European Forum in Florence, many will remember the Genoa meeting of G8, July 18 - 22, 2000, and the many questions raised by global resistance groups. The event gathered the political group of eight national leaders representing Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States. It also attracted tens of thousands of socialists, environmentalists, and human rights activists. SIFE club at HPU president Benedik,t Goetz was there, and the following interview recalls his experience of the events of that turbulent meeting.

Q. Why did you decide to attend such an event?

A. I had studied the development of the G7 group as it evolved into the G8 with the addition of Canada. I understood the importance and relevance of a summit of such powerful countries able to make important decisions at a global level. As a business and international affairs major, I wanted to come to know more about it through firs-hand experience.

Q. What is the purpose of the G8 and what are the global purposes it wants to serve?

A. The G8 includes the political leaders of the most powerful economies in the world. They meet to make decisions on how to develop their own economies and those of the rest of the world and to establish worldwide regulations of these economies.

Q. Thousands of people went to Genoa to express points of view opposing the G8 and forming civil resistance against the decisions and decision-making power of these political leaders. What were your impressions?

A. As described by most newspapers, thousands of members of opposition groups manifested in peaceful demonstrations to make their opinions heard on issues that concerned them, to identify opportunities, and to propose, often, very interesting solutions. A very small resistance group known as Black Block manifested in a violent and vandalistic way. Out of thousands of participants, only 500 people actively attacked police, and damaged or destroyed cars, shops, and buildings. This contributed to build the tension between police and civilians.

Q. What was your personal experience of police violence?

A. My strongest feeling was that it all seemed very scary. Police appeared to be unprepared and unable to control the situation, and their response was highly violent and over-reactive against groups of peaceful protesters. They were unprofessional and abused their power where power was absolutely not needed, by attacking people who were not using violence. I was personally attacked by police as I was filming what was going on. They took away my camera, but eventually returned it to me, as I was asked to escort from the middle of the crowed, a 17-year-old girl whom they had severely beaten.

Q. After such a direct experience of the G8 and its opposition, which of the two do you favor?

A. I favor the opposition, as the solutions that these groups proposed are very interesting and they are not being considered by the G8 group. The demonstrations were carried out in hopes of changing the political tendencies of our times and forcing government to address the world with a higher respect for human rights. I donít think that politicians do not understand such points of view, but they are the decision makers and their decisions are based on a narrow range of economic interests. In my point of view, public opinion should be taken more into consideration and more people allowed to participate to the G8 forum itself.

Q. On Nov. 9 a new G8 summit will take place in Florence. Do you expect it to have a better outcome than the 2000 summit?

A. First of all, I hope police organizations will be better prepared and no violent outburst will result from the demonstrations. I also hope that the opinions of the different opposition groups will be heard and that their leaders will be given the chance to actually assist at the forum, to at least actually be present and witness what happens in such global decision-making gatherings. The opposition should work on getting the message across in a more effective way, instead of just on the streets.

 

 

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