THE TIMES Genoa riot inquiry criticises police

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,3-2001262985,00.html

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 01 2001 Genoa riot inquiry criticises police

FROM RICHARD OWEN IN ROME THE Italian Government’s inquiry into the handling of the Genoa summit riots admitted yesterday that the police had made tactical errors and used excessive force.

But Francesco Lalla, the Genoa prosecutor co-ordinating the parallel judicial investigation into the riots, said that it would be difficult to identify individual officers responsible for abuses because they were wearing helmets and visors as part of their riot gear.

The judicial inquiry focused on the raid in the early hours of the last day of the summit on a school being used by the Genoa Social Forum as the nerve centre and sleeping quarters of the protesters, Signor Lalla said. The raid left the school a shambles, with bloodstains on walls, floors and radiators.

The 13 police commanders and 70 policemen who took part in the raid were being questioned but it was difficult to establish who did what, despite testimony from protesters who claim they were beaten during the raid and afterwards in prison, he said.

He appealed to members of the public to provide “any video footage, photographs or other evidence”. Police deny having used excessive force and say foreign demonstrators who returned home displaying wounds and bruises had acquired them during the fighting on the streets.

The internal government inquiry, which put pressure on Italy’s chief of police to resign, was carried out by three senior inspectors from the Ministry of the Interior. It pointed to “errors and omissions” not only on the part of ordinary policemen but in the chain of command. It said that it was wrong to deploy officers in the raid on the school who had been involved in clashes with rioters during the previous two days, as they were tired and tense as a result.

The inspectors also looked at criticism of the overall policing, in which priority was given to defending the “red zone” around the Ducal Palace, the summit venue, leaving the “yellow zone” outside � in effect, the residential and shopping centre of Genoa � thinly protected by less experienced police and therefore at the mercy of hardline anarchists bent on destruction.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, who was the G8 summit host, has promised there will be no cover-up but has repeatedly declared that the riots were the fault of “those who were the attackers, not those who were attacked”. He has firmly defended both Claudio Scajola, the Interior Minister, and Gianni De Gennaro, the Italian Chief of Police.

The parliament agreed yesterday to hold its own commission of inquiry into the violence, despite increasing hostility between the parties. Leading figures on the Centre Left opposition openly accused the post-Fascist Alleanza Nazionale, which is a key element in the ruling coalition, of encouraging its followers in the police and security forces to “crack heads” in Genoa. Luciano Violante, the former Speaker, called on Gianfranco Fini, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Alleanza Nazionale, to explain why some police officers were heard to shout “Long live the Duce” as they charged. Signor Fini said although the Alleanza Nazionale was descended from Mussolini’s Blackshirts it was a reformed and democratic party and that the charges were absurd.

The clash reflects a view on the Left that the draconian security measures in Genoa were a move towards an authoritarian right-wing government. The Left said it would drop a motion of no confidence in Signor Scajola if the Right agreed to a parliamentary inquiry, but alleged that Signor Berlusconi and Signor Fini were resisting an inquiry because they believed it would be more likely to blame police commanders than rioters.

This week Signor Berlusocni, speaking in Portofino, near Genoa, said he was “with the police 100 per cent”. Opinion polls show many Italians resent allegations of police brutality at Genoa and are critical of the police not for beating up protestersbut for failing to prevent widespread damage.

The Interior Ministry report, details of which are expected to emerge today, focuses on the riots which erupted in the first two days of the summit, as demonstrators tried to penetrate the “red zone”, the death of Carlo Giuliani, 23, during the riots, and the police school raid on the third and final day of the summit.

Police have denied that the raid on the school was an act of revenge by police andsay they found knives, sledgehammers, iron bars, petrol bombs and the black hoods and clothing used by the Black Bloc hardline anarchists