The G7 summit has attracted protests for decades. In 1991, for example, activist Bruno Manser used the event to highlight rainforest destruction in Sarawak, Borneo. But the rise of the anti-globalisation movement during the late 1990s and early 2000s grew such protests to unprecedented scales.
Protests reached fever pitch during the anti-globalisation period. Meanwhile, the summit became the ‘G8‘ between 1998 and 2014 due to Russian participation.
The 1998 summit held in Birmingham saw spectacular non-combative protests as 70,000 people formed a human chain around the city centre. And the Sunday ended with more combative scenes. BBC News described “clashes” between protesters and riot police, though one blog said this was an exaggeration.
However, it was the G8 event in Genoa, Italy, in July 2001 that gave rise to the most confrontational scenes. US-based anarchist collective CrimethInc described 2001 as the “high point” of the anti-globalisation movement. Riding a wave of ‘summit hopping’ protests that began with the Battle of Seattle in 1999 and peaked at Quebec City’s April 2001 protests against the Summit of the Americas, Genoa’s G8 ended in death.
Beaten and shot
More than 200,000 people converged on Genoa to protest the G8. Police engaged in extremely aggressive tactics, with the European Court of Human Rights describing one incident where police raided a school housing protesters as amounting to “torture”. The Genoa G8 also gained notoriety after police shot and killed anarchist Carlo Giuliani. As a result of police aggression, protesters engaged in increasingly combative action including barricades and street battles. A court convicted senior officers years later for the school raid, but none wound up in jail.
The violence of the Genoa summit led to drastic changes. Not only did event organisers decide to hold the event away from major cities, but this episode cooled the passions of the ‘summit hopping‘ tactic employed by the anti-globalisation movement.
While G8 and G7 events continued to attract protests, few reached the same levels as those during the late 90s and early 2000s. The French response to the 2019 summit was an exception. It coincided with the height of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests, and was located in the heart of France’s Basque region. As a result, there were large and lively protests. Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.
Legacy of G7 resistance
Protesters at world leader summits including the G7 have each brought their own diverse range of causes. This led to a popular nickname, the ‘movement of movements‘. Cornwall’s Resist G7 is no different. It says on its website:
This isn’t about opposing one summit. It’s about building on and creating a legacy, of showing what’s possible when diverse groups come together and start organising the world we want to see.
Opposition to the G7 has united many disparate campaigns and politics. But they have all broadly agreed on one key idea: that capitalism, and particularly the capitalist extremism of neoliberalism, is a destructive presence in the world.
Main image via Ekinklik / Wikimedia Commons