Tag Archives: riot

Police protection, the Italian way….

Police Raid in Genoa at G8 in 2001

Some of you may know the story of the police brutality at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, where riot police waded into crowds (including members of the public, journalists) and then into a school where an alternative protest summit was being held by groups wishing to voice their concerns about the G8. These protests happen at every G8, some a more militant, some peaceful, but none will be dealt with with the ferocity of that day seven years ago.

And finally, a chapter has been closed on the episode, in Italy at least, where today a ruling cleared all senior police officers of any charges relating to that day. This is the day that 300 police charged into a school containing 200 peaceful protesters, and, to a man and woman, beat every single one of them. Women, men, young and old, British, Italian, German, Belgian, there was no discrimination. What was one of the most shameful days for a police force in any western country, has been swept quietly under the carpet, as if it was simply a storm in a teacup.

What does this say about Italy itself? It’s hard to guage a sentiment, as there is still so much not known about what happened that day. Did the police assume the protesters were part of the Black Bloc anarchist movement (as some witnesses have claimed) or was this just an excuse for the violence? Who orchestrated the action? Not one senior officer has been charged, so if this is the case, where did the commands come from? Following the events, one officer even preposterously claimed he “was off duty and had just turned up to make sure his men were not being injured.” Many of the police testimonies differered greatly, key evidence disappeared, and many of those officers cleared are now in high-ranking positions in Italy, some in anti-terrorism. Every single charge against the protesters was dropped, yet in the face of this, only 13 of those that took part have been sentenced. And, due to the length of the appeals, and a statute of limitations, none of them will even go to jail.

And yet the victims, including British journalist Mark Covell, who still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, have little recompense. All deported straight after the events, (cleaning up the evidence and clamour in one go) they still suffer while the police are held almost totally unaccountable. None of the police, bar one, that took part in the raid has ever been identified, as they all had masks on. They have, from this, never stood trial.

While we in Europe like to pride ourselves on our liberal and forward-thinking approach to law and order, it’s clear that, even now, this view isn’t one that’s held, or at least acted out, throughout our society. The acts of that day in Genoa, and the resultant disgrace that took place in its courts shows that there are those that are still far from civilised. In Italy, the spectre of the far right still looms, and with Silvio Berlusconi still in power, the recent shame of the persecution of Romany gypsies is still a warning to those that feel it is now a thing of the past.

Let us not forget this shameful episode. Italy’s police, it seems, may seek to uphold the law, yet they may also be above it.

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The End is nigh…

The End

As if the body blow of losing Turnmills, The Key, The Cross and Canvas wasn’t enough in 2008, the news that the End would close for good on 24th Jan 2009 was probably the worst of all for the capital’s clubbers. In its 13 years it’s played host to some of the best-loved DJs, with residents from founders Layo and Bushwacka! and Mr C to Danny Howells, Laurent Garnier, Steve Lawler, DJ Marky, Andy C and stalwarts like Chew The Fat, DTPM, Milk’n’2 Sugars, Simple, Olmeto, Cocoon, Circo Loco, not to mention a list of guests that reads like a who’s who of dance music, it’s a tragedy that it’ll finally, along with its little sister, the AKA, close its doors. The centre of town is now more barren than it’s ever been.

With times tight, it’s not impossible to understand that the last in a long line of offers for the premises would be too good to turn down. The team has been there from the start, and 13 years is a long time in clubland. When time for change came, leaving it to anyone else to run wouldn’t see right, when it’s something so close to all of them, and especially when the future years, and the desire to continue ad infinitum, must be weighed up. But for those that have gone time and time again it’ll be a huge loss to the capital, as it’s surely the light that’s shone brightest in the past two decades in a capital with nightlife that is the envy of the world.

But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. And, over the past thirteen years, we’ve been spoilt. Personal memories are so many, some hazier than others. From early visits for Underwater, Missdemeanours, Be As One and Riot! to midweek carnage of record launches (Digweed and Howells’ Choice Ones were the stuff of legend) and Sunday nights misspent at Clandestino, and Mondays at Trash, maybe the least-known but most lauded residencies the club has seen. The one thing that run through it all was how easy it was to have a good time in those two hallowed rooms. The club was (and still is) run so well, with nothing more important than the clubbers and the music, that, for the uptight reputation that the capital has, it could’ve easily been Manchester or Leeds. It was a pocket of friendliness and cool that seemed to sit outside the confines of the city.

I’m not 100% sure when I first set foot in the club, it would’ve been around the end of the 90s, but I remember queueing for ages, which, back then, proved it must’ve been an experience worth repeating. And despite the changing times and clubbing climate, very little changed downstairs. It didn’t need to. The main room, with its raised central booth perfect for both worship of and performance from the DJ, and the lounge, as much for chatting, catching up, and boozing as dancing, were an example to many others on how simplicity really was the best watchword. I’ve lost count of the many times I’ve stood up the end of the bar buying shots or more beers, whether it was the fun and games of Riot! on Sundays gone by, where so many of my current friends were met, or Cocoon, taking a break from the pounding main room. It won’t seem right not having that familiar spot to take a breather, or add to the hangover of the morning after. I’ve been lucky enough to get behind the decks. It may have been only once, in the Lounge at Riot! (sadly the 2nd last in 2006) but I’m able to say I played my favourite club, and I’m not sure how many could say that.

So, what of the future? Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, there are still 4 months left to give the club the send-off it deserves. Plans and line-ups for the final weeks are as yet still unreleased, but it almost doesn’t matter who plays, it’ll be the last chance to say goodbye to the place with the people that matter. Much like those gone before it, it’ll be hard to get used to walking from Holborn to Tottenham Court Road and glancing down West Central Street and finding that famous view no longer there. But like other legends before it, we can at least say, without a hint of smugness or ego, that we were lucky enough to spend many a lost weekend in its confines, and look back over those memories at the fun we had. The clubbing map is always in a state of flux, and while, 2 years ago, if someone had told me five of the capital’s finest nightspots would be lost to developers, i’d have laughed and also prayed. But we can only look back and think how lucky we were that the people behind the End gave us all those years, not be angry that it’s gone. Its significance can only be understood even more once it’s finally closed its doors. And I’ll be there when it happens, you can count on that. Monday the 25th January will be a black day in more than one way, but I’ll be taking holiday. I think I’ll need it….