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Clash Between Demonstrators, Police Erupts Near G8 Summit

Aired July 21, 2001 - 08:39   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: All morning we've been telling you about the G8 summit, where leaders are conducting a second day of talks right now in Genoa, Italy. We want to take you there live now, where our Alessio Vinci just got his gas mask on there. Obviously it's not as calm as we thought, Alessio. What's the latest? What's going on?

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF: Well, the latest is that there is at this point a clash between police and some young demonstrators. What we are able to tell you at this point is that earlier this morning a march of about 150,000 people came down the street about two kilometers down. Those 150,000 people were very peaceful. However, inside that crowd there were several anarchists or extreme groups who decided to seek confrontation again with the police.

The police, as you can see from these pictures that we are bringing you live, are trying to contain the crowd by throwing tear gas. So far there has been no direct confrontation with the police and the demonstrators. However, this is exactly how it happened yesterday. In the early morning, we have seen the police intervening first to try to contain the crowd and then later on the demonstrators managed to regroup and stage their attacks.

We are about a mile away from where the G8 leaders are meeting at this point, and again, as I said, as you can see from those pictures, despite the fact that yesterday one of the demonstrators died in an incident, shot by one of the military police corps, those people do not seem to have learned their lesson. I guess they are trying to regroup and to launch another assault.

Over me there are at least two police helicopters hovering, probably trying to give instructions on the ground to the police forces.

Again, I just want to state the fact that it appears that those demonstrators which started peacefully this morning managed to continue on to the left side here and after that a small group of anarchists continued on and went and to seek confrontation with the police.

PHILLIPS: Alessio, first and foremost we want to make sure that you definitely look at your surroundings and make sure you and your photographer are safe, so don't worry about looking at the camera or a shaky camera. We'll just have a conversation here as you pay attention to what's going on. Take a deep breath and get a, you know, look around, see if you can get a feeling for what's happening. And can you tell us, are there more police forces out today? Is there a definite heightening of security and do you see more or less protesters today? How do you gauge this action with yesterday?

VINCI: Well, I would say that it doesn't look like there are more policemen also because at this time in Genoa there are about 20,000 policemen and it appears that they are all here at this point. I can tell you one thing, what it looks like now is again there's a group of perhaps 500 or so demonstrators trying to, again, provoke the reaction from the police. This is pretty much a repetition of what happened yesterday.

On the one side you have three, or a few hundred, I would say, demonstrators -- I can't really see very much from this vantage. Yes, I would say several hundred, perhaps to a thousand demonstrators trying to provoke a reaction from the police.

The police so far has decided not to intervene, have decided not to intervene and simply tried to contain the crowd by launching tear gases. The demonstrators appear to be advancing towards our position here. I think the cameraman can provide you this picture live. You can see them advancing slowly. They have thrown bottles -- they are throwing stones and bottles towards here and the police at this point, again, is trying to prevent this advance by using tear gas.

There has been at this point still no direct contact between the police and the demonstrators.

PHILLIPS: Alessio, I saw your photographer go over to an area where there was a small fire burning. Do you have any idea what that is?

VINCI: We've heard about 20 minutes ago, before we began this live broadcast, a loud explosion and we know that those groups of anarchists are trained to prepare hand made explosives. And I can assume that that fire is the result of that explosion. I'm trying to work on finding out what is burning, but I believe it is just a chair or a piece of wood. It's nothing. If anything, it may be only garbage or something like that. But it's just a small fire on the road separating, again, the demonstrators and the police.

PHILLIPS: OK, can -- do you know if the leaders of the summit can see what's going on right now, Alessio? Are they able to witness what's happening right now?

VINCI: Well, if they're watching I believe CNN and now there are, I guess, local broadcasters, I do believe that they should be able to see what is going on here. There are many journalists and there is also local television here who has been broadcasting yesterday some of the protests live. I can tell you one thing at this point, it appears that there is a group of demonstrators that is breaking away from the original group and moving to the right hand side of the corner, to the right hand side. And I see -- because I see the police trying to throw tear gases towards the right. On the right hand side of this street, by the way, there was a camp where the demonstrators this morning had gathered to prepare for what they said were to be a peaceful, peaceful rally. We can see now the APCs of the police advancing slowly toward the demonstrators. However, the line of policemen behind us who is preparing to intervene have not received the order yet to advance. I would say there must be at least 300 to 400 riot policemen ready to intervene. However, as I said, despite the fact that the demonstrators are, the demonstrators are trying to provoke them, they have not intervened. Perhaps they want to try to avoid a repetition of the clashes, direct clashes that yesterday involved policemen and military force against the demonstrators.

PHILLIPS: Alessio, are there more protesters or more police? Can you tell?

VINCI: Right now the view is completely covered by the tear gas. I cannot see what the protesters are doing. I can tell you one thing, it appears that the police is trying to stay compact, if you want. They're trying not to break up the line, trying to sustain this provocation from the demonstrators and not directly seeking a hand to hand confrontation with the demonstrators.

I think that the tactics at this point is to avoid that those, these lines of policemen here behind me, I think the camera can give you a picture of it, to prevent that those lines of policemen's break off and try to seek a direct contact with the demonstrations.

This is when yesterday we saw the worst clashes taking place, when the police broke off and tried to chase away the demonstrators in side streets, and that's where we have seen several confronts between a group of small demonstrators and a few policemen.

One other thing that the police is probably trying to do right now is to avoid that single policemen remain isolated in a side street or in a car and then being the target of an attack by the demonstrators because that's what we saw, for example, that's how the young anarchist died yesterday, when the police car was stuck against the wall and the anarchists then surrounded the car and started smashing the windows.

We can see now those demonstrators are trying to element the fire that is on the floor there and there, on the street, by putting some more chairs, some plastic chairs. It does not appear, however, as well, that the demonstrators are trying to come closer with the police. Right now I think that their hope is that the police intervene first and try to seek confrontation with them. But as I said, these clashes have been ongoing now for about 20 minutes and the two groups so far have remained separated by about 200 yards perhaps.

PHILLIPS: Yes, this is a good shot, Alessio. We can get somewhat of a glimpse of the protesters to sort of see how many there are versus the amount of police, to try and see how intense this is. Are you able within a safe proximity, are you able to get a little closer here or are the police keeping you at bay right now? Are they having you stay where you are? VINCI: It is impossible for us, it is impossible for us to tell. It is impossible for us to tell how many demonstrators there are, because I'm telling you, they are 300 yards away. But there are trees. There is also a lot of smoke. But certainly they appear in the, you know, low thousands perhaps, maybe one or two thousand. They're all masked. They are waving some red flags. The policemen behind us, there is, as I said, 300 to 400 at least. It appears at this point that the number of policemen and the number of demonstrators appear to be fairly equal, at least at the first glance.

PHILLIPS: All right, Alessio...

VINCI: But certainly we don't know what is happening behind this line of demonstrators.

PHILLIPS: All right, we're going to ask you to keep monitoring this...

VINCI: Watch out!

PHILLIPS: OK, continue to monitor this for us, Alessio. Please, once again, be careful. We will check in with you. Once again, the G8 summit going on in Genoa, Italy. We have been reporting to you the violence that has sparked since these talks between protesters and police. We will continue to follow this. Alessio Vinci, as you could see, right there in the heart of it, and bringing us a live report.

As soon as we get more information, we will let you know.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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