So absurd, that nobody would put it on stage
Interview with the released members of the PublixTheatreCaravan
Interviewed by Oliver Marchart, 17.8.2001.
Could you report how from your perspective the detention exactly happened?
D: Already in Genua the situaiton was very chaotic. After we heard over the
radio what had happeden in "Scuola Dias" we really got into panic
that the police would attack our camp too. Some of us didn`t sleep at all
that night. On sunday the panic continued after we got infomation that in
Genua poeple were still being arrested by the police and we were in fact the
very last in the camp of Via dei Ciclamini.
H: After all these horrible informations in that night, and people who fled to the camp telling us that the police arrested people at random. The main factor was a man who was searching for his friends at noon. His nose was hit from one side of the face to the other and the whole face was completly etched by acid or tear-gas. He couldn´t even speak any more. Then we just panicked and we just wanted to leave. We split into two groups because in the media - centre we had to get theatre equipment of the performance on the 19 th, and we sat up a meeting point outside the city. At that moment when we arrived at that meeting point and got out of the cars, the police was there.
And where exactly was that ?
H: Before Mocconesi on a small parking place. Of course it caused a lot of attraction in that small village. Lots of people came to a bridge to see what was happening and why the police was standing around carrying guns. And one of the first measures of the police was, that they urged them back from the bridge until they couldn´t see anything. Then we were told to turn around our faces towards the bus. We had to stand in a line and they were mimicking an execution command pointing their guns at us. At least for me it was the moment when I thought now it´s over. After all they had shot a demonstrator.
Did you explain your situation, did you try to make clear, that you are a theatre group?
G: I went to them at the beginning and I wanted to show them the project
folder and explain the project, btu they went striaght into the bus and turned
everything upside down. We explained that these are theatre props and those
are costumes and we have any color, not only black. But they took everything
that was black from black socks to scarves and T- Shirts ....
G: ... and underwear and said: Black Block. When they found the juggling clubs, they raised them in triumph. I told them that they were juggling clubs but they wouldn´t listen at all. Then they pulled out the kitchen knives from our kitchen and disposed them. Just everything that fit into their image.
S: One of them with the machine - gun stated: now you ve had yours three day party and this is going to be ours.
From when on do you think you were being observed?
D: With the informations we had we can only speculate about that. There were controls right from the entra into Italy. The big bus was the first vehicle to be controlled on the 12 th of july at the Manu Chao concert for the first time. And it went on like that. On the 13 th it was checked for the second time. Then on Monday, and then again on Saturday, the 21 st. Because of that it was not foreseeable for me that we would be arrested on Sunday 22 nd. From all that we know we can only speculate if we were being observed already in Austria or just in Genua from the camp on, if a helicopter followed us as an italian newspaper wrote and so on. That s an important question that comes up and has to be answered.
What is your suspect why exactly you were arrested?
D: Grous obviously fit well into the construct of athe criminal organisation.
And we are a group which was visible in public and it was clear that it is
an organised group that fit well into that construct, that rests on inconsistence
and contradictions: Open groups fit as well as clandestine groups, people
dressed in black fit as well as people dressed in colors. If they find colored
clothes, you are a member of the Black Block, because you can put them over
the black clothes.
G: And we were an easy catch, we have to admit that. On the way with a big conspicously marked bus in a caravan. In a caravan you attract more attention as always all have to wait for each other. And of course there is the suspicion that the political concerns that the caravane puts forward, found the praise of neither the Austrian nor the Italian police.
As evidence nearly everything could be taken in. No matter if you wear black, green or blue, everything can indicate a membership of the Black Block.
S: There is no real appreciation of evidence. If you can cut bread with a
knife but the appreciation of evidence shows that you could have used the
knife otherwise, then obvisously it is enough for an accusation.
G: This acuminated during the trial. We had been saying from the beginning that we were an open theatre project, where people came and left. Die opinion of the prosecutor on that was: Exactly this openness proves that this has a Dr. Jekyll und Mr. Hide-Function and we are in fact the Black Block. The argument was about, how the theatre props should be estimated. It was extremely absurd.
D: So absurd, that nobody would ever put it on scene like that, not even we as a theatre group.
What occurred then, after you were caught on this parking lot?
G: We were just told, we had to go to Genua for identification. So we drove to Genova as caravan.
And in the police station it really started?
H: Yes, with all possible gestures to scare us. They had us sit in a row at the wall with our legs tucked in and for example they led a man up and down in front of us, whose face had been completely smashed, in order to show us: you'll be next. Then the whole time sexist allusions, rape threats. Fortunately most of us did not understand Italian and the others tried not to listen if possible. Three policemen even spoke German. One of them knew two phrases: every three minutes he said either "Sieg Heil" or "Heil Hitler" and he had a tattooed swastika on his hand. The other one knew more words: "Sitz!" (sit!), "Platz!" (down!) and "Fuß!" (heel!), whereby "Fuß!" meant that we have to tuck in our legs immediately, and if that did not occur fast enough, he kicked the legs. The third officer shouted that we have to sign some Italian notes, with the threat, we would later come to "his room". So it was clear that one must sign immediately, because one comes to his room afterwards.
What means "to his room"?
S: There were several rooms. First we were in the room for identification
measures, for medical examination in another room, then in another room to
deliver our things, then in the hallway and finally in a cell. But it was
clear about the rooms, what happens where, and it was clear that you were
treated differently or beaten in each of the rooms. Two rooms were obviously
rather the torture chambers.
I assume, the medical examination was before the abuses. Which purpose did it have?
S: Yes, it was right in the beginning. The whole thing was about finding
any wounds which were supposed to point at a proximity to the Black block.
H: They had a very scurrile logic. They assumed that any injury, which anyone had coming from Genova, was made by the police. Their logic was: They determine injuries, which would prove that we were involved in fights with the police.
At that point in time however no injuries were found?
D: All in all much more wounded persons were put on lists, than actually
existed. Eight of us were registered as injured. For example they determined
an injury on my body, although I positively was not hurt at all. They examined
my back and only asked whether I had mother marks. I said, no idea, perhaps,
and then I just heard them say: positive. Then I was told to sit with the
other positives, thus with the hurt ones. No idea what they found on my back.
S: It was simply not transparent, which criteria was set on to put one with a special group in that hallway. People continuously disappeared and emerged from other rooms, with some it took them longer, with others more briefly. So in this situation of fear we gradually lost the overview, who is where and who had just disappeared.
H: We already heard someone crying from within the rooms. It was their strategy to take the men first and that we women heard their screams. They even left the door open so that we could the screaming and they told us: You'll be next.
So there is this perverse situation that in the first room a medical examination takes place and torture in the next.
H: In the first room, where I should be examined, there was a female doctor
and a nurse. Since my turn was quite late, I had already an idea of what was
happening. So I went in and both, the doctor and the nurse, were already quite
exhausted. I ask one of them if she was a doctor. She said yes. I asked if
she really had studied medicine at the university and what she is actually
doing here. She started to cry and she gave me a sign to leave. So she classified
me as "negative", although if I had to undress, they had surely
found surely a blue mark, stemming from packing the car, which surely would
have been recorded as injury again.
G: Of course we said to the doctor, how you can take this responsibility, you hear that people are beaten next door? She just said things like: Yes, they had lice, therefore we had to cut their hair. Or those resisted, therefore they came out with a blue eye.
H: At the same time you heard from the outside that things were thrown around in there, one heard thudding noises and screaming in pain.
Could you describe the type of the abusing more exactly?
S: The abusing have actually started during the arrest with this short executions scene, which was by hundred percent intentional. This was really like we all stood with hands raised and legs spread with the faces towards the bus, and I saw from the corner of my eye that a Carabiniere in uniform with a machine gun said to the boss in civil clothes, we should step closer to each other. He forced us to move closer until we all stood there shoulder to shoulder, and then the policemen stepped back. Then there was silence, just silence. And in reality one experiences that in such a way that one waits for the shot as noise. There I think the abuse started. Until then it was only a police control, like we had it lots of times before.
And then at the police barracks?
S: We didn't know that this was the police-barracks where a lot of maltreatment
happened. Insede then sitting, being shouted at, being forced to lower the
the head, threatments.
A door was opened and I saw a person making knee-bendings naked. Any time later this person was beaten and was dragged along in front of us.
This was the room in which another police-unit was.
We had to deal with a lot of different police-units there. Like the Guardia Finanzia, the Carabinieri, the jail police, the ROS and they all wear different uniforms.
In spite of that all of them left and entered the room whenever they wanted.
Which means that they all presented themselves just in different disguises although they were one group.
There is no one at the whole police-station who does not know what happened there.
For me there is no difference between the one's who actually were involved into beatings and the others.
For me are those who knew exactly what happened there culprits as well.
What was with the other rooms again?
S: The second lever was the identification process where some people who
tried to refuse this were slapped in the face. From somewhere the sentence
came: Watch it! We need them white - which meant unhurt.
And a lot of people had already been beaten during the identification process. One entered the room, left his/her fingerprints, a picture was taken and in front of one a sheet of paper was lying with three symbols: the first was an anarchist A, the second was a hammer and sickle sign in a circle and on the right was a condom.
We guessed this divides into anarchist, communist or homosexual.
The sheet was just lying on the table?
S: It was lying there and one was standing in front of the table and had
to sign the sheets on which ones fingerprints were and right next to it this
sheet was lying.
We didn`t have anything to do with this sheet - it was just lying there. That was also something like mental pressure.
The first people who tried not to sign the identification sheet came out with bright red cheeks - one person was hit on his feet and immediately fell down on his knees.
Men were sitting behind the table and they asked things in Italian and if people didn't answer or didn't understand they were beaten. This was the identification room.
Most of the maltreatment also was connected to the situation when sitting in the corridor.
As soon as one tried - after hours of sitting - to crouch or to move a leg it was prevented. One had to sit there with drawed up feet and had to avoid a direct look in a face or eyes to avoid provoking.
What happened then?
S: The harder physical maltreatments happened after the handing over from
the Carabinieri to the prison police. One had to take off the clothes and
make knee-bends naked and facing the wall.
And what happened to me was that whenever I bent down I was kicked in my testicles from behind.
Some people were beaten up badly.
Then one was kicked in a cell again. The cell measured three or four square-metres and - in my case - was filled with fifteen men.
At this time the treatment had already taken a long time. From there we were guided out and had to face the wall again and we also had to turn our hands with the palms out so that we soon got cramps in both arms.
If you tried to move your hand you got beaten. One was not allowed to move.
Standing like this after a long time with cramped hands, we were allowed to sit down. But it went on when we sat.
Three people had to clean up the ID-room where computerprints and other garbage was lying around. They were whacked with a stick while doing this.
Going to the toilet and washing your hands meant two/three slaps in the face. Then again sitting with drawed-up feet. I was sitting on the right side and got kicked in the ribs so that I thought they were broken. I told them that I would need a doctor to take a look at my ribs. But they didn't care.
The feeling to stand or crouch there and to know that they will beat you again, which they did, is part of the mental torture.
How long did this procedure take?
G: The whole night. how long exactly we don't know. Some time the sun went
up. We were put in the cells of three square-metres for hours. We also were
not allowed to sleep and when we had to go to the toilet we had to leave the
door open - male cops were standing in the door and grinned stupidly.
S: It was remarkable that we werent allowed to sleep on the way to the jail. Whenever somebody fell asleep they slammed against the bars and shouted "Viva il Duce" or "Mussolini" or something like that.
We were sure that when we would arrive at jail there would first be a "beating-up-street" and then electric shocks and so on.
We thought that this was only the warming up and the real torture would start in prison. We were arriving very scared and wondered very much that we werent treated like this anymore. This permanent torture reduced after the first three days.
However the feeling that they have got you over the barrel was always present in every treatment.
After a few days in prison the examination of your custody started. How did you experience that?
D: I think in the beginning everybody thought that we would go free after
the first examination. When we came into jail a lot of people who had been
arrested in Genua were already there. And on Monday/Tuesday all of them except
two Italians have been released.
Until our examination on Thursday we had been very optimistic because we didn't know about the construct of incrimination against us. We didn't know that it was about founding a criminal organisation, looting, complicitiy. It was a great shock when we got to know through the translation that they had decided to prolong the custody.
H: Until today we don't have a written explanation in a language we can understand why we had to stay in jail for three weeks. The translation was miserable. We understood that the bill of indictment was read at the examination but it was translated: " You are accused of having destroyed the town of Genua". And when we said that this can't be because the town of Genua still exists it was translated again: "You have destroyed the town of Genua".
It was impossible to make our points clear because the interpreter was lousy and we didn't have the possibility to talk to a lawyer.
When were you allowed to talk to a lawyer?
S: On the day of our examination we saw our lawyer the first time. It didn't
take ten seconds. He introduced himself: I'm your lawyer. He just spoke broken
english. There were nearly no instructions on rights of appeal and no possibility
for an arrangement - so we sat at the examining magistrate and could testify
I thought it couldn't be that difficult to invalidate these stupid arguments after it was clear that we didn't posess weapons. When our busses were searched on the 12th or on the 14th the police even handed us a written confirmation that we didn't posess weapons. And it was clear to me that we were a pacifist group and that we could make that clear to them also. And after the examination I still was pretty sure that we would be free to go .
It was a great shock for me when I got to know that we had to stay although the accusations they had made up were pure bullshit.
G: I told them at our first examination: There's a homepage and there you can see that these things are for juggling and with this video we could prove that. This was the migrant-demonstration where we participated as the caravan and here I played a UNO-soldier and here are pictures and this and this media was here - but they just told me they didn't believe me because I was on the list.
So the list was the deciding factor then?
G: There I heard about the list the first time. In Italy I have been checked many times but nobody informed me about the list. After the very end of the examination they told me: Did you know you're an unwanted person in Italy? I wa very surprised and said: What? That's impossible - for what reason? Although at the beginning I was asked at the police station if I would demonstrate a lot in Austria.I thought - oops - what does that mean now?
This is an indication that at the police-station they looked already checked the computer and found the list which was sent from the Austrian ministry of interior to Italy. And this list was the first reason for the negative outcome of your first examination. The second reason seemed to be the missing political pressure from Austria against Italy.
S: People were allowed to enter the country and were checked often even one
day before the first demonstration and although they were on the list. So
police knew who the people were and on which camps they stayed. The first
practical use of the list started with the arrestment.
This leaves possibilities for speculations in which way ever.
How big do you think is the probablility that the first examination was negative because Austria didn't intervene in the first four days?
G: This has for sure something to do with it. When you see that other consulates visited the arrested people on the first day and the pressure started immediately.
So you were sitting in jail and could watch other people being visited by embassadors and you have .
G: And we saw nothing happened for us. When the consul visited us on the
fourth day at last he didn't take our complaints about sexual harrassment
About the neglects of the Austrian government and their representatives in Italy we will give a pressconference on Monday 20th of August.
Just one thing: The fact, that the consul showed up on the fourth day had pracitcal consequences for us and also on our examination.
Until that time we hadn't seen any of our lawyers - we had nominated our lawyers but had no possibilities to inform them.
We weren't allowed to make phonecalls - every contact to the outside world was prohibited and the consul could have informed our lawyers.
But he didn't even inform us what was charged against us although he had a fax in his office since Monday that we had been arrested but he didn't tell us any details and he didn't inform our lawyer either.
The German consul acted differently. The first days we were together with women from Scuola Diaz who really looked bad: broken arms, broken legs, missing teeth, broken jaw, bloody T-shirts - we couldn't change clothes at first.
But the German consul came immediately and brought them books for example while the Austrian consul said that he didn't even know if he was allowed to do that and that magazines were impossible to bring anyway. The German consul had no problems with that.
OK. On Monday you will give a press- conference about the behaviour of the austrian authorities. What will be your next step?
S: I don't know about the others. I will for sure sue the policemen that
maltreated me. I have signed that at our first examination and instructed
the lawyer to do so in my name.
So its in strange hands what I can do in my future but this is something that screams out of a lot of people and that we want to take an action against the maltreatment is for sure.
That we want to take some kind of action against denigration that happened through the corporate media and also the parties is for sure, too. This depends on what the lawyers think is best and what legal possibilities there are.
But in our minds there is always: this case isn't finished yet.
Still we can be taken to court and can get like 15 years or 8 if they drop some of the accusations. That's our main problem at the moment that there still is the possibility that we can go to jail or that Austria hands us over or any other state - in which we coincidentially happen to be at this very moment - that has an extradition treaty with Italy.
Of course we will stay a theatre-group and act as a theatre-group. In jail we already started preparations for our next play and we want to produce this in the cultural centre EKH: