Protestors undeterred by killing

Published September 1, 2001

Organizers vow to continue protests such as this one which took place as Group of Eight leaders met in summit in Genoa last summer.

A member of a three-person Canadian faith and justice delegation to the Genoa Group of Eight summit in July says the fatal shooting of a protestor is even more reason for people to continue to protest at future international economic summits.

Kirsten Mercer, youth initiative coordinator for the Primate’s World Relief and Development fund, and acting in Genoa as part of the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives (KAIROS), said “the issue of someone being killed cannot prevent us from protesting. Over 19,000 children die every day from debt related causes,” she noted. “People are dying protesting trade liberalization and globalization in the southern hemisphere quite often. This is nothing new.”

(The other two members of the Canadian delegation were Pam Foster, a worker with the Halifax Justice Initiative, and Jennifer Henry, education and networking specialist with KAIROS.)

Ms. Mercer did not see the shooting of 23-year-old Carlo Giuliani, although she had participated in the same march earlier in the day.

As a member of the PWRDF and KAIROS, Ms. Mercer was in Genoa to co-convene a working group forum on illegitimate third-world debt with members of Jubilee South, to participate in a “parallel” summit (much like the “people’s summit” in Quebec City in May) and for peaceful demonstrations.

Ms. Mercer said violence was never on the agenda among demonstrators People challenged the perimeter, she said, by walking up to it with their hands held behind their heads, or pouring water under the fence to show it could be breached, if only symbolically.

Ms. Mercer said the police created “a climate of terror,” although she noted that they used less tear gas than at a previous G-8 meeting in Quebec City.

As she walked in a march with elderly women and some children, Ms. Mercer was hit in the leg with a tear gas canister and burned.

Predictably, the death of the protestor became a rallying point at the final mass march. “The GSF position was to push on with this march, with the logic that if we get back down now, we send the message that if they shoot people, it works.”

During that march which involved 60,000 people, Ms. Mercer said that “You couldn’t escape the reality of police helicopters over the crowd. People would cry ‘assassini’ or ‘murderers’ to the police.”

Ms. Mercer insisted there is still good reason to continue the protests. “Protesting has a value in and of itself. It shows the presence of people who feel the same way about something. And the leaders behind that fence know that we are there.”


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