Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Fannulloni – The G8 Diaz Police Brutality Case

Fannulloni is a word much in vogue in Italy at the moment, in part because of a headline-grabbing crusade by the Minister for the Public Sector, Renato Brunetta, against this seemingly large and well-deployed group. Fanulloni put simply means a layabout – and there’s plenty of evidence that the public sector is full of them. Decades of clientelism, pushing people into the public sector as a reward for votes, etc has led to a situation where it’s not uncommon to find public officials holding down two jobs, or taking extravagant sick leave etc.

I would hazard a guess that Brunetta is one of the government’s more popular ministers at the moment, as there is justifiably widespread resentment against the bloated public sector. What’s not clear, though, is exactly what he’s doing to clean up the system. The most widely publicised move he has made has been the costly introduction of special turnstiles in many government offices, which force employees to swipe their id cards when entering or leaving the building. In one fell swoop, then, our gallant minister will have eliminated that classic Fannulloni gambit of clocking in early of a morning, only to procede out of the office for the day before returning to clock out.

Wouldn’t it have been cheaper, though, to have asked department heads, managers, and officials how it is that they can have employees on the pay-roll who do no visible work? Accountability at the administrative levels in the Italian public service seems as distant as ever.

Last week the trials of 29 police officers (including a number of high-ranking officials)  on charges relating to the brutal blitz on the Genoa Social Forum headquarters in the Diaz school during 2001’s G8 meeting finally came to an end. The court convicted only 13 of the 29 officers, with the heaviest sentence meted out being four years (which thanks to the ‘indulto’ or amnesty,  voted for by the majority of the previous centre-left led parliament, will result in zero prison time).

On the night of the 21st of July at least 150 police officers stormed the Armando Diaz school in Genoa. The school had been allocated to the Genoa Social Forum by the city comune as a temporary headquarters  – indymedia used the building as a communications centre, and bedding space was provided for people who had travelled to the massive protests against the G8 summit. By the time the police blitz had finished up to 66 unarmed protesters (many of whom were sleeping when the blitz started) had been injured – thirty of them requiring serious medical attention, with three beaten so badly that they were admitted into intensive care in a coma.

The official excuse for the raid was that the school had been infiltrated by the notorious ‘black block’ protesters. Shortly after the raid the police presented two molotov cocktails – but (and this was long before the WMD days of Iraq) it was later proved that these had been brought into the school by the police themselves (protecting democracy can be a strange business sometimes – as shown by ex-President of the Republic Francesco Cossiga’s recent comments).

The outcome of the trial last week seems to have juridically ruled out the prosecution’s case that the blitz was a heavily orchestrated and planned event designed to put the fear of God/Government into the no-global protest movement. What the trial did conclusively prove, though, was that left-right-and-center (or in this case decidedly right-of-centre) there had been unacceptable behaviour from the police. Nobody, including the defence, seriously argues against the following facts:

As if to emphasise that this was a situation out of control, the defence admitted during the trial that this had been ‘a terrible night for democracy’. The only excuse on offer was that officers supposedly feared for their own safety, and as a result were wound up.

Where, then, were the officers in charge – the men who are paid by the state to ensure that law and order is carried out?

There are two options. One is that they were present or fully informed of what was going on, and that it fitted exactly what they had hoped for. Supporting this is the fact that complaints were made then and there to the police at the highest levels. Rifondazione Comunista party leader Fausto Bertinotti, on hearing about what was going on, called the head of the police, Gianni De Gennaro asking him to intervene. The head of the police responded, somewhat surreally,  “What do you want me to do? It’s not an embassy, it’s not extra-territorial. What’s going on is simply a form of territorial control. I can’t tell you any more. You can’t ask me for protection as if it were an embassy”[1].  Added to this is the fact that police brutality continued for a number of days with protesters rounded up during the protests subjected to horrendous treatment in the Bolzanetto barracks.

The second option, favoured by the verdict last week, is a more dangerous application of Minister Brunetta’s turnstile logic. It could be termed the Abu Ghraib defence, meaning that despite the obviously co-ordinated nature of the raid (hundreds of officers from throughout the city, during a huge security alert, converging on one building), things got out of control because of a few bad apples. 

Again the logic is that those ‘in charge’ hold no responsibility for what went on. In fact most of those involved have gone on to bigger and better things. De Gennaro – who incidentally is being investigated for allegedly trying to bring pressure to bear to mislead the inquiry – for example, was appointed, with cross-party support, as a super-commissioner with extraordinary powers (and pay) to clean up the Napoli refuse problem.

Let’s give the various politicians and police officers in charge at the time of the Diaz attack the benefit of the doubt – they weren’t complicit in this unacceptable episode.  That means, then, that they mustn’t have actually been in charge, or doing their job at the time. Fannulloni then, the lot of them. Either way they’ve no place holding high-office in any serious democracy.

[1]Cosa vuole che faccia? Quella non è un’ambasciata, non c’è extraterritorialità. Quello che sta avvenendo è semplicemente una forma di controllo del territorio. Non le posso dire altro. Non mi può chiedere una protezione come se fosse un’ambasciata – l’Unita 13-11-2008