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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 February 2005, 22:03 GMT
'I still have nightmares'
More than 70 Italian officers are to go on trial in connection with alleged police brutality at the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. Mark Covell was one of five British anti-globalisation protesters who were injured.

Mark Covell
Mark Covell suffers from post traumatic stress disorder

Mark Covell has no truck with the anarchists of Black Bloc.

It was their actions which indirectly led to the assault which left him so badly injured and still suffering today from post traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Covell said: "They're a dangerous, well-organised group of about 700-800 people, mainly from Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

"They believe that communism and capitalism have failed them and they don't want to negotiate with anyone or even talk to the rest of the movement.

'Black Bloc give us a bad name'

"To be honest I hate Black Bloc. They are so extreme, they defeat the arguments of the peaceful protesters and give us a bad name."

It was in the aftermath of the Black Bloc riots in Genoa in 2001 that Mr Covell and dozens of other legitimate protesters were attacked by police at the Armando Diaz School in the city.

Dozens of police officers are to go on trial in Italy in connection with the raid and Mr Covell will be called to testify.

Map of Genoa
The raid took place two miles from the scene of the riots
Mr Covell, a journalist with the alternative media organisation Indymedia, recalls the events of 21/22 July 2001 with the chilling clarity of someone who cannot escape the trauma.

"It was 11.50pm - four and a half hours after the demo had ended.

"I had been uploading information and pictures in the media centre. I was having a cigarette with some friends when an Italian said there was a raid.

"Me and a friend decided to go back to the computers so we could file on the story.

"But as I crossed the road 250 cops were coming down it in full riot squad gear. I didn't stand a chance.

"The first eight of them attacked me as I shouted "Prensa! Prensa! (Journalist!)" One of them said to me in English 'You are Black Bloc and we're going to kill Black Bloc.'

They kicked me in the spine and I was used as a football. Eight of my ribs were broken. One lung was shredded, not punctured but shredded
Mark Covell
"They didn't ask me any questions or try to handcuff me or anything. I wasn't resisting arrest, even if I could have done against eight six-foot coppers kitted out in the latest riot kit.

'I was used as a football'

"I fell to the floor after being batoned around the kneecaps. They kicked me in the spine and I was used as a football. Eight of my ribs were broken. One lung was shredded, not punctured but shredded.

"I had two bones broken in my left hand and a vein twisted around my spine.

"I lay on the floor for a while and then more police came along. One hit me in the back of the head with a baton and another one kicked me in the face, which is when I lost my 10 front teeth."

At this point Mr Covell passed out.

He spent the next 14 hours unconscious and when he woke up he was in hospital but under police guard being treated like a dangerous criminal.

Mark Covell
This film shows Mr Covell lying on the ground being hit by police
He was one of three protesters who had arrived in a critical condition.

Mr Covell spent 12 days in hospital was then deported back to Britain, where he underwent further treatment in Homerton Hospital in east London.

Others who were injured in the raid included two Germans, Thomas Albrecht, whose spent four days in a coma after his skull was fractured, and Lena Zuhlke, who had five ribs broken as she lay in her sleeping bag. Another casualty was Dolores Errero, 68, from Spain, who suffered multiple injuries.

None of 93 people arrested at the Diaz have ever been charged with any offences in connection with the events in Genoa in 2001.

Mr Covell remains committed to "positive social change" but admits Genoa has changed him and he is reluctant to attend similar demonstrations.

"My post traumatic stress disorder is sky high and I am still having counselling. It was like having a shell go off next to you in Iraq.

'I almost died'

"I almost died at Diaz and I still have flashbacks and nightmares every night, and recently they have got worse."

That may be due to the stress of the forthcoming trial.

I almost died at Diaz and I still have flashbacks and nightmares every night, and recently they have got worse
Mark Covell

He said: "The worst thing will be giving evidence. I will be in the dock for a week and the police lawyers are very good. The cross examination will be tough."

As for the future Mr Covell, 37, says: "I am back at Indymedia but I am considering retiring after the trial. Wrongly being accused of being a terrorist sticks with you. I want to move on.

"I'm not going to be intimidated into not going to G8 again but I'm too much of a target."

'Protesters have not gone away'

He says: "Since September 11 it has become very difficult for any person to democratically protest on the streets.

"They've even made it illegal to protest in Parliament Square."

A policeman beats a protester
Earlier in the day there were violent clashes in the centre of Genoa
Mr Covell said the anti-globalisation movement had largely been swallowed up by the anti-war campaign.

But he believed there was still a groundswell of support for their agenda, which includes 100% debt relief for impoverished countries, lifting subsidies and trade barriers, getting the US to sign the Kyoto treaty, reforming the IMF and World Bank, and allowing China and Brazil to join G8.

Mr Covell believed around 100,000 protesters would try to lobby the G8 summit in Scotland in July, with 9,500 police officers on duty.

But he believed that because of its remote location it was highly unlikely the events of Genoa would be repeated.




SEE ALSO:
Ghosts of G8 haunt Genoa
06 Feb 05 |  Europe
In pictures: Italian police accused
06 Feb 05 |  In Pictures


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