A Year Without Carlo: Haidi and Giuliano Giuliani speak
by Anna Battista
In July 2001 in Genoa, Italy, something tragic and shocking took place: during the G8, the Italian police and Carabinieri attacked peaceful protesters with the excuse that they were part of an extremist group, the Black Bloc. On Friday 20th July 2001, during one of the attacks, Carlo Giuliani, 23 years old, was shot dead by a Carabiniere. Carlo's sacrifice suddenly opened the country's eyes to the real intentions of the local centre right wing government. After the G8, many were the videos released about Genoa, to document the police's violence in those July days; among them there were Francesca Comencini's Carlo Giuliani Ragazzo (Carlo Giuliani - A Boy), a video in which Carlo's mum tracks back her son's day, and Bella Ciao, by Marco Giusti, Roberto Torelli and Carlo Freccero, the latter censored by the Italian TV channels, 90% in the hands of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Carlo Giuliani Ragazzo was broadcast only on the TV channel Rai Tre, later attacked for showing it. Fortunately for truth and justice, both videos went to Cannes in May 2002 and, since then, Comencini's film has steadily been touring Italian squares together with Carlo's parents, who are traveling all over Italy to bring a message to people: join together and find the truth about the Genoa events and about Carlo's death. Haidi is shy whereas Giuliano is much more used to talk in public thanks to his past in the left wing trade union, but they joined forces and even put together a book, Un Anno Senza Carlo (A Year Without Carlo - written with journalist Antonella Marrone and published by Baldini & Castoldi) and a compilation Piazza Carlo Giuliani - ragazzo featuring various artists in memory of Carlo.
Meet Giuliano Giuliani.
It's a late July evening when Carlo's father Giuliano starts speaking to the crowd gathered in a square in Pescara, Italy, where Comencini's movie has just been screened. "As first thing I would like to sincerely thank you. This is one of the many Italian squares I've been to during this year, but there are more people here than usual and this means that there is a conscience," Giuliano starts speaking right after a round of applause that has accompanied the last images of Comencini's Carlo Giuliani Ragazzo, "a conscience that has been awoken, not only by what happened in Genoa, not only by Carlo's sacrifice, but by a moral indignation that has been growing up day after day. Everyday that passes we feel more and more that there isn't any ethic value in this government, there isn't anything, there is only arrogance, the worst kind of arrogance, an arrogance that doesn't have any dignity. This moral revolt that is spreading, is strengthening the consciences of the people and it is something we can look at with hope."
"Carlo Giuliani Ragazzo is an ethical movie, a film that presents a documentation, but that, above all, presents ethical values. A few evenings ago, Rai Tre broadcast it and now there is a process to that channel for having broadcast it. Why? Because the government wants to deny the right to debate: you can watch that film and you can then discuss it with those who have a different opinion, after all it should be legitimate, but this band of scoundrels who govern us even refuses the confrontation because they know that by confronting themselves with other people, they would lose, because the debate, the confrontation, would take place between those who have moral values to defend and those who don't. This is the main point."
Giuliano pauses for a few seconds, then continues, "I'm convinced that Carlo has united the good part of our country: there is no comparison between what he did to defend the others and himself and what he was the victim of. But I do not bear a grudge and I'm not looking for revenge. My wife, my daughter and I are looking for truth and justice about what happened during that day and for what happened during the following days. It was a very sad page of history for our country, but we hope it has sown good seeds and will arise a new conscience in each of us. In our country there have been great and important things: for instance, the workers were called to defend their rights and they did it for their dignity. There have never been and there will never be strikes to ask to increase the wages or to work half an hour less. But there will be big actions of struggle to defend rights and dignities and this will be a further contribution to unite the country. I think we must be proud of this and we also must look at what has been awoken in the country, even in those ones, and I talk also for myself, who understood late what was happening, but the important thing is to understand."
In Italy right now, the media talk, often in a negative way, as if in it there were exclusively juvenile delinquents, about what they call "the no global movement". Giuliano surely knows more about it: "In many occasions I had the chance to meet many young people who are part of the movement, who identify themselves in the values that the movement presents, and I became aware that, even though young people are the most substantial part of it, there aren't only them in the movement. It's a movement that champions values and moral redemption, it's a movement which doesn't count, as if it were a mere datum, the thirty thousand kids who die every day, the one billion and two hundred people who don't have drinkable water, the two billion people who live with less than two dollars a day. This movement doesn't consider them as mere statistics, it considers these things as inadmissible. This is not a movement of people claiming something for themselves, it's a movement made up of the kids of wealth, of ordinary people who would only like to have a house, to be able to eat, to have a dress to wear and to be able to buy a book or a record, none of them have the ambition of buying boats, one thousand Euro shoes, or anything else."
"This is the reason why this bunch of scoundrels who govern us has tried to instill into the consciences and the minds of the nation the idea that this is a movement of people who must be slaughtered, like they did in Genoa. The morality of the movement is the exact opposite of their immorality and those who only look at their bloody interests can't tolerate that there are so many people disposed to ask for different things. This was the most intolerable thing, this was what drove them crazy and so they tried to do what they did, they made up the Black Bloc..."
Giuliano stops for a while, then he starts remembering, "On that July Thursday last year there was in Genoa the manifestation of the immigrants: it was a joyful manifestation, a wonderful manifestation, as wonderful as it was the one we saw in the film, the one that took place on 20th January 2002, as wonderful as the one done a year after the Genoa events, with the people that welcomed our desperate invitation of not turning that day into the commemoration of a dead, but of doing of that day, a celebration of life, of the right to live and of the so many denied rights. On 19th July 2001, there was such a peaceful, coloured, quiet, musical and joyful manifestation, there were even flowers inside the rifles and in the grenade throwers. So, the scoundrels governing us wondered 'How can we resist to a manifestation that we tried to portray as made up of people who wanted to throw balloons filled with infected blood? What will we do with the two hundred plastic coffins that we brought to Genoa?' 19.000 policemen had been gathered in Genoa, prisons had been emptied, even whole hospital wards had been emptied."
"By sheer coincidence, on Friday morning, the Black Bloc appeared. I don't deny that among them there were also poor desperate young people who thought they could fight power by setting on fire cars or breaking a shop window. I don't deny that among them there were also authentic Black Blocs. But there was also something else. The half-yearly report of the security services claimed that there were neo-nazi and right wing supporters infiltrated in those groups: I think that the security services shouldn't stop there because there are images, photographs and videos that show horrible contiguities. The videos and photographs show that there are bands of so-called Black Blocs breaking stuff, setting stuff on fire, then going to chat with a group of Carabinieri and finally going back to do some other damage. They went around Genoa as if they were remote-controlled and the police didn't stop one of them. Why? Shall we wonder why? I can only give this question one answer: if they had stopped at least one of them, they would have been embarrassed at having to recognise him!"
People clap, but when they stop Giuliano is ready to resume his speech, "We therefore demand for truth and justice, but we also ask for a parliamentary commission of inquiry to be reconvened. We don't want another fake commission of inquiry like the one that worked upon nothing. The commission of inquiry that worked on the Genoa events offended the Parliament, offended the democracy. After months spent discussing, a document signed by the then chief of police arrived saying that the march parading from the Carlini Stadium was authorised to demonstrate along those streets in Genoa, before that sheet nobody knew it. And then other things were discovered, things that happened later, after Friday, on Saturday. On that day, the police didn't find anything better to do than beating pacifists and, on Saturday there weren't even the plastic shields and the polystyrene armours, there were Franciscan friars and nuns, there were people holding their hands painted in white in the air, old people, people of every kind, the top of pacifism and the police attacked them as well."
Giuliano seems to stop once again, but then he goes on to remind the audience that we can't forget what happened later at the Diaz School, where many protesters slept and at the Genoa Social Forum's HQ in the Pertini School (both the schools were authorised to host protesters and journalists), raided by the police without a warrant. After the raid, the police found two petrol bombs, five wooden batons, two hammers and one pickaxe. Protesters claimed the batons, hammers and pickaxe had been left there by the bricklayers restoring the school, and, after a few months, a policeman confessed that he had been ordered by the vice-chief of police to bring the petrol bombs from another site to the school garden.
"Apparently, there were intelligent and enterprising petrol bombs that crossed the city and arrived with some uncertainty perhaps at the first floor or at the ground floor of the school," Giuliano sarcastically begins, "and then we discovered some pickaxes and bars that were even more enterprising than the Molotov bombs, that, from the building site near the Diaz School, climbed the stairs and arrived on the desk on which the police illustrated the weapons they had found. And if it hadn't been for the intelligent Molotov bombs and the enterprising picks, the weapons found there would have been two Swiss knives, eight mobile phones and a few sanitary towels: here are the famous weapons of Al Qaeda and bin Laden. These are the things we discovered. But we also discovered that the Bolzaneto barracks became a torture chamber where horrible things that dishonoured the police happened. Luckily, there are also honest policemen who do with dignity their job and they started talking. If they hadn't done it, the lies about what had happened at the Diaz School wouldn't have come out. I think we should thank those people, also because to denounce these events from the outside is easier, from the inside is much more difficult, you must be really brave and you must have a lot of dignity to do it. And it is for this reason that I admire the police, in the same way I admired them when I worked in the trade union and worked with them to form the police union: we had created a democratic organisation, then perhaps we didn't realise what was happening, we didn't realise that the motto 'Loyal in the centuries' could have become 'Loyal only to a few of the worst parties of the present government'. But, unfortunately, this is what happened."
Then Giuliano goes back to that 20th July 2001, when Carlo was killed: "I've often asked what were Gianfranco Fini and other representatives of National Alliance doing at the Forte San Giuliano, the Carabinieri HQ, on Friday. Nobody ever answered me. Or rather, during the inquiry commission, they said they were bringing solidarity to the Carabinieri. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If I'm not wrong that's seven hours and a half to bring solidarity." A bell from a not-that-distant church suddenly rings, Giuliano pauses, "I'd advise our Prime Minister to verify the productivity of his collaborators, because if they need seven hours to bring solidarity, then I can understand why, during this year, apart from their own dirty interests, they have only done disasters. And then solidarity to what, to whom? I think that at 9 in the morning, when in Genoa nothing was happening, they were waiting for something that had been prepared to take place," Giuliano concludes.
Haidi and his husband have formed a non-profit organisation called Comitato Piazza Carlo Giuliani together with Carlo's friends. They want in this way to inform people on what happened in Genoa last year and to show their solidarity, through their economic help, to other countries, but above all they want to find the truth about Genoa and Carlo's death. "This is not the first time something like this happens in our country, we're waiting to know the truth about many murders and other cases, but it is important that our thirst for truth and justice grows. I think that the most important thing is to understand that we have to walk together. But, to do it, we must remember that we sent this bunch of scoundrels, and I repeat this word with which I define them because I can't find another word to explain to myself who are these politicians, to the government, they are governing because we were divided. But I don't feel like giving the responsibility to this or that party. I give it to everybody, to all of us and most of all to those who have more responsibility in our country," Giuliano claims, hinting at the divisions inside the Italian left wing parties that consequentially brought votes to the united right wing groups.
"If we have understood this," Giuliano continues, "then the main problem is to try not to commit again that mistake and to follow the unity at all costs. The first thing we must do is to send these representative of the centre wing parties away, in the one and only way in which they can be sent away in a democratic country, through the vote of thousands of citizens who come out of their indifference. Then, as second thing, we must renew our politics and, to renew it, we need to put together heart and mind. It isn't possible to think that only the head can work, we don't have to be ashamed of our capacity to feel emotions. To put together heart and mind means to be able to talk to people also about simple, but important, things, such as the fight for human rights and for dignity."
"Among the so many things brought to Carlo in Piazza Alimonda there was a card and a bag of little rubber balls: on the card two kids had written 'Dear Carlo, if the bullets had been like these rubber balls, you'd still be here to play with us'. Then there was a lady who brought to Piazza Alimonda a prayer, the 'Hail Mary', embroidered on a piece of cloth. Since she knew about my laic convictions, she asked me if she could put it there. I gave her a hug saying that an 'Hail Mary' can't hurt anybody. This is a beautiful thing: to know that there is a plural unity that has put together Catholics and laypersons. I felt really moved when the Community of Sant'Egidio, for which Carlo has worked gathering blankets to send to Sarajevo during the war there, giving me a lesson, because while I was discussing about it, he was really helping those people, invited me to a night of prayers in Genoa and since I'm a layman, but I'm very respectful of those who live with intensity their own faith, I went there."
"One of the things that struck me was that I heard them singing all together. There were four hundred people in that church and they were all singing holding each other's hand. In that occasion I thought about how people stopped singing during left wing meetings or celebrations. It was then that we thought about producing a CD, Haidi said 'Why don't we put together some songs?'. There was also a song written by Jennifer and Sean, two Americans, five or six days after the 20th July 2001, a song that in the end we didn't manage to include in the CD Piazza Carlo Giuliani - ragazzo. That song contains an important sentence; it says, 'We are their economy and we own our destiny'. It's true: I often remember that Carlo has never thrown a stone at a McDonald's window: he simply never went there. Not going there means to oblige it to close down and if we did this all together, the result would be very important: let's give value to our food and refuse the globalisation of our behaviours. This is how we should carry out the battle against the GMO, against inundating adverts. As I was saying, we didn't include in the CD that song, but we included other songs, and we did this no-profit operation linked to the 'Piazza Carlo Giuliani' committee. We earmarked funds for the Auser organisation to build a school in the Saharawi, a school for six hundred kids. We donated money to Emergency: just think about what surgeon Gino Strada and his volunteers do there to protect the wounded, the mutilated people of those war zones. Then we thought about Palestine and gave a contribution to set up a craft laboratory for the disabled in a war zone in which the disabled are created daily by bombs. With our funds, we also adopted three kids living in Cambodia, Salvador and Mozambique through the Community of Sant'Egidio."
Giuliano's long speech closes with a hope, "I'd like to add a reflection about the Middle East: unfortunately right now things have worsened there. I've been wondering when a representative of the State of Israel will be able to say sorry for the mass slaughters done in Jenin and in the other Palestinian towns and when a representative of the State of Palestine will be able to say sorry for the kamikaze attacks. A message of hope came when there were pacifist communities who went to the Middle East and when a group of Israeli kids got over a road block of the army and brought medicines and food to Palestinian kids. Until there are such kids like the ones who hung those cards to the laic altar of Piazza Alimonda and kids like those ones who carried medicines to other kids in this bad world, then there will be hope that we can keep on working and we can manage to make a better world or at least a world less horrible than the one we have. This is my hope, this is my conviction." Giuliano concludes and sits down. People clap, like a year ago, when a manifestation to remember Carlo took place here and in the rest of the country. People are clapping for what Giuliano said, they are clapping for Carlo and for truth. They're clapping for all the oppressed populations of this world.
Meet Haidi Giuliani.
A day passes after Giuliano's visit to Pescara and the Carabinieri suddenly claim, as if in answer to Comencini's film, that they have a video in which Carlo Giuliani can be seen assaulting a post office with the Black Bloc bands and later joining the White Overalls protesters before being shot: a reconstruction that diverges from what is shown in Carlo Giuliani Ragazzo. A few weeks pass and Haidi, Carlo's mum, arrives in Pescara to talk to another audience, to more people gathered again in the name of Carlo, this time in a park, during a left wing manifestation. "Hi everyone. Carlo's dad and I have been travelling all over Italy for quite a while now," Haidi, petite and shy, but as keen as Giuliano to take their message to more people, welcomes us, with what will be a brief but incisive speech.
"For a while we've been talking in front of different faces, faces belonging to honest people. Usually, when we come back home from our travels, we wonder 'Why?' 'How could it happen in such a country?' 'Why did we lose our son?' I think this government has been trying and is trying to steal our democracy. We knew we were living in a democratic country, in a country where someone had fought to conquer freedom and institutions. What they did in Genoa was terrible, but, if we think about it, it is equally terrible what they have been doing everyday," Haidi points out what the Italian government did to bend the local laws to Prime Minister Berlusconi's needs.
"I think that all the beautiful people I meet in my travels, should hold each other's hands, because, if we stay together, we'll be stronger. We must do it. I promised it to Carlo," she says in a firm voice, continuing "I can't do anything else for him now, but there are many other people like 'Carlo' here, in our country or in the whole world. Carlo taught me a lot of things, so we must ask our kids to help us to understand. We must stop to talk also with the people in the streets, let's try to make them understand that all the tales the government has been telling us in the last year from the Italian TV screens are tall tales: what counts in our lives are the smiles of our kids, the smiles of the kids of the other people, of a Palestinian and an Iraqi kid who can still hope to receive from life what they need and not bombs. These are the things that have a real value in life. They're trying to instill in ourselves fake fears. Everyday they steal us little pieces of our constitution, laws that we managed to conquer in the past. I'm a shy woman, I'm not able to speak in public, but I do it, I do it all the same, we all must do it. Let's be brave, because if we hold together and if we stay together, we'll be stronger and we'll manage to beat them."
In Carlo Giuliani Ragazzo, Haidi talks about a picture taken by the photographer Luciano Ferrara, a photograph that is also printed on the cover of the book Un Anno Senza Carlo: it is taken from the perspective of a police truck facing a crowd of people trying to resist the attacks. Carlo is standing still in front of the crowd, facing the police truck, as if he were wondering what was happening, as if he wanted "to understand" as Carlo's mother underlines in the film. Like Carlo, now there are a lot of people who want to understand, to know the truth about Genoa. As soon as possible. As soon as possible.
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