Genoa and Kent State

by Geov Parrish website, 7.21.01


It's a war With brutal killing of protester, depths of division are clarified

It's official. It's a war.

For some 20 months, from Seattle through Washington and Melbourne and Windsor and Philadelphia and Los Angeles and Prague and Quebec and Goteborg, tactics have been escalating on both sides as the protests against gatherings of the world's unabashedly ruling elites have gotten larger and more raucous. In Seattle, some 50,000 nonviolent protesters and blockaders were overshadowed by literally a few dozen window-breaking vandals. By the time of Quebec and Goteborg, large blocks of protesters had embraced property destruction and the hurling of everything from teddy bears to Molotov cocktails.

On the police state side, the brutality that shocked the world in Seattle was actually a step removed from what it could have been, as National Guard troops with live ammunition stood by but never opened fire. As the protests have escalated, the wholesale use of chemical warfare against protesters--whether they were breaking any laws or not--has, at least in the public eye, become old news, and to many people an acceptable price to pay to keep the "hoodlums" at bay. The media has surely helped; in Quebec and Goteborg, the worst of the police mayhem, like today's shooting in Genoa, was best covered not by the combined resources of the world's elite media, but by The networks almost uniformly ignore it.

And now, in Italy, someone is dead. It was coming to this.

Make no mistake. For all of its sometimes blind rage, the global movement to confront the corrupt, corporate, anti-democratic, soul-deadening, lethal policymakers shaping the rules of 21st Century Corporatocracy has those policymakers terrified. In many of the so-called Western democracies where these protests have blossomed, the politicians enforcing corporate will are creatures of their paymasters--but they also get elected by feeding on the distrust and discontent of the general public for government. They know perfectly well that if that public turns on them, the movement to reclaim our lives is literally unstoppable. Hence, the marginalization. Anti-corporate protesters are thugs; they're not like you and I. Except that they are, and if suitably afraid, the police would shoot us, too.

The steady demonization of global justice protestors by politicians and corporate media has created an opening for sectors of the public to dismiss even cold-blooded murder as a necessary, even useful thing. This is particularly true in the U.S., where our "liberal" public radio, NPR, reported on the Genoa death--after several minutes' reporting on the activities of George Bush--thusly: "[the protestor] was shot and killed by a wounded police officer. Italian officials says the officer acted in self-defense."

NPR didn't bother to explain how, exactly, one can back a vehicle over a mortally wounded civilian in "self-defense." Other reports even suggested that the protester was shot by another protester. But anyone who has witnessed the video--which, within hours, included a lot of the world--will reach a differrent and far more horrifying conclusion. They will have witnessed, with one death, the ugly underside of a global corporate state that casually kills millions each year.

Genoa is reminiscent of nothing so much as Kent State, where, after hundreds of thousands (at least) of deaths in Southeast Asia, it took the deaths of four young students on a Midwest campus to galvanize opposition and transform the US anti-war movement into a force that shut down campuses across the country for a full season. Recall that at the time of Kent State, the general public's opinion, shaped by contemptuous politicians and a judgmental media, was that the Guardsmen acted properly and that the Kent State students were thugs who had it coming. It will be interesting to see whether, 30 years later, we are more desensitized, or more discerning, or whether global technology and global issues will mean that this atrocity has consequences across 24 time zones.

Power, the quote goes, concedes nothing without a struggle. As the global justice movement has gained in momentum and efficacy-- on many fronts, not just the street protest spectacles--the retributions have gotten and will continue to get harsher. World leaders cannot now meet anywhere on the planet--even Qatar-- without a challenge. That good deed won't go unpunished. If the people lead, another saying goes, the leaders will follow.

But not before the leaders will try to shoot them. Again.


Geov Parrish is a Seattle-based columnist and reporter for Seattle Weekly, In These Times and Eat the State! He writes the weekdaily Straight Shot for WorkingForChange. If you would like to be alerted as soon as his column is posted, please send a request to

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