Genoa violence

The Group of Eight conference wrapped up last week with the leaders of the industrialized nations musing not about the poor but the violent. Ironically, the entire conference was overshadowed by violence that drowned out the real issues the leaders faced. Although some protesters might claim the conference was a victory because little was accomplished, their actual message was lost as the world only saw footage of them violently rioting.

Every year, these leaders come together in an attempt to take a unified stance in the fight against world poverty and pollution. The conference can be a vital place to start the ball rolling in a fight against the greenhouse effect and the spread of HIV. However, at this conference the focus was on those dying on the streets instead of those starving and dying around the world. Carlo Giuliani, 23, was shot and killed by police during one of the many protests that turned unnecessarily violent. As the globalization protests turn more violent, sadly, Giuliani’s death will not be the last.

A peaceful procession filled the streets of Genoa to voice concerns over social, economic and environmental injustices. The protesters were there to show world leaders that globalization does carry negative consequences for some nations and that the actions of the leaders of the G-8 would not go unnoticed. However, police force and physical battles between radicals and law enforcement muted many voices, and clouds of tear gas veiled their presence. In the end, decisions made by the G-8 will not be remembered, but rather Carlo Giuliani and 430 injured protesters. Police raids and the hospitalization of the peaceful protesters will be permanently etched on the 2001 G-8 conference.

The radical protesters are foolish if they think violence will solve matters or make leaders listen. Instead of allowing the leaders to know how protesters felt on important issues, while allowing a sea of people to peacefully show that their concerns can not be wished away, the radical protesters turned the focus of the conference away from the issues.

Some progress was made in setting up a $1.3 billion dollar global health fund to combat AIDS, as well as endorsing a plan for universal primary education. Unfortunately, one of the most concrete decisions was made not about the millions of poor and suffering, but that the next conference will be moved to an out-of-the-way location. This is in addition to a reduction of representatives to 350, as opposed to a normal contingent of approximately 2,000. This decision was made to help prevent the violence, not to help the poor, so in the end, the radical protesters’ sole accomplishment was the death of a fellow protester and the conference’s move into hiding.

The only lesson to be learned at G-8 was something most should have learned in grade school – violence solves nothing and in many cases makes matters worse. In the future, police need to keep a more level head, and peaceful protesters need to distance themselves from radicals. The voices of the G-8 protesters deserve to be heard and not drowned out by the violence.