On July 13th 2012, the Supreme Court of Cassation, the major court of last resort, upheld the conviction of ten Italian protesters, all sentenced to imprisonment for ‘devastation and looting’ during the 2001 G8 protests in Genoa. In particular, they were convicted of breaking shop windows, making barricades, and the alleged looting of a supermarket. The relevant Italian law, contained in the Rocco code, dates back to 1930: part of the penal code of Mussolini’s fascist regime, it has never been reformed since. It was originally created to respond to real situations of devastation and looting during a War regime, and is now being reinterpreted to target demonstrations of social dissent. One of its features is that people can be convicted just for “psychic co-participation”, without the state having to prove any explicit association between the defendants. So, for example, you could be imprisoned for up to 6 years just for standing next to somebody breaking a shop window; or up to 10 years if you help them break it.
Francesco Puglisi and Vincenzo Vecchi are the two of the “Genoa 10″ who have received the most severe sentences for crimes of “devastation and looting”: 15 and 13 years. They are untraceable at the moment.
Two more people, Alberto Funaro and Marina Cugnaschi (sentenced to 10 years, and 12 years and 3 months) were imprisoned immediately. Ines Morasca, sentenced to 6 years and 6 months, had her prison sentence suspended due to parental duties (she has a very young child). The remaining five have been granted the right to appeal against some of the charges. They have been found guilty of “devastation and looting”, but can present evidence to reduce their sentences by proving that they were influenced by the ‘mob mentality’ around them.
A campaign, called 10X100 (i.e., 10 people, 100 years of prison) has been launched to support the defendants. The campaign is aimed at collecting money for legal expenses, to support those who are already in jail and their families, and to bring solidarity to them all.
Alberto and Marina would also be very glad to receive your letters.
ADDRESSES TO WRITE TO ALBERTO FUNARO AND MARINA CUGNASCHI:
C/O CASA CIRCONDARIALE CAPANNE, VIA PIEVAIOLA 252, 06132 PERUGIA (ITALY)
C/O CASA CIRCONDARIALE SAN VITTORE PIAZZA FILANGIERI 2 20123 MILANO
THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF SHOP WINDOWS
Genova does not end. Not for yesterday, but for today and tomorrow.
Ruthlessness can be something that knows no end. In the case of Genova, it’s been ongoing for eleven years. Eleven years to get to the supposed grand finale, with the Italian Higher Court upholding the conviction of ten protesters. A ruling issued in very peculiar times – while the neoliberal model has collapsed into the longest economic crisis of the past 40 years, and throughout Europe previously conquered rights are wiped out and spaces for expressing conflict keep shrinking. The criminal offense of “devastation and looting” is an heritage of the fascist penal code, still in force in Italy. A legal monstrosity that has been used in discretionary and ‘political’ terms to inflict an exemplary punishment. And someone, of course, had to take the trouble of justifying such punishment: what did exactly the ‘devastation and looting’ consisted in, and why was it caused by those ten individuals in particular, amongst the hundreds of thousands that were in Genoa? In his final address to the Higher Court, General Prosecutor Gaeta didn’t spare himself. The point, he argued, is that despite its fascist origins this type of offense can be re-interpreted from the perspective of the Italian Republic, in relation to the need of protecting freedom of thought and of demonstration for all. We remember very well how the State and its police forces protected freedom of demonstration during the G8 of 2001, when we experienced “the most serious suspension of democratic rights in a Western country since World War II”. We remember the devastation of bodies and minds caused by the militarisation of an entire town, the fake intelligence reports, and the closure of borders, the brutal charges, the gunshots, the CS tear gas, the arbitrary arrests, the tortures, the beatings, the falsification of evidence and the cover-up. We remember the looting of a young man’s life and the devastation of his body as he laid dead. On all this, eleven years later the Italian judiciary has established its truth: the repression of demonstrators in Genoa was brutal and indiscriminate, but no one can be hold politically accountable; the price can only be paid by part of the troops and commanders on the ground. The chief of police at the time has been appointed Undersecretary by the current government and publicly defends his former men. The demonstrators go to jail. We did not expect any good news to come from the court. Yet, we somehow wanted to continue thinking that reality can sometimes surprise you. But today’s reality is that at least four of the ten protesters are subject to immediate imprisonment. Their situation is a message to all: from now on, watching someone else breaking a shop window will be enough to get a minimum of 6 years. And if you help breaking it, ten years is the least you deserve. After this ruling, shop windows have definitely won their battle over people. And the message could not be clearer: don’t you even dare taking the streets. Everyone home, carrying the burden of the crisis without complaining. The Campaign 10×100 was developed around the future of ten people, but also managed to achieve wider political results. Not just in terms of the huge number of people who signed the petition, but because it succeeded in informing the public opinion, largely unaware of the mere existence of the offense of ‘devastation and looting’ and of the way Genova 2001 was ending. It also sparked debate on the mainstream media. But the campaign is not over. In a way, it begins now. Not simply because we wish to continue feeding discourses on freedom, but because those jailed now need our solidarity. The urgency now is not leaving them alone. Genova does not end. No curtain will be dropped.