The American college student imprisoned in an Italian jail for three weeks after the protests surrounding July's G-8 summit in Genoa spoke out yesterday against the "terrible brutality" that left one protester dead and hundreds injured.
Susanna Thomas, 21, of Warren, N.J., said in a statement e-mailed to The Washington Post and other media organizations that she is praying for the Italian authorities to "remember their democratic heritage" and "honor the continued political dissent that is so vital to any democracy."
"Nobody who was at Genoa will ever be the same," said Thomas, a student at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania who had traveled to Italy with the Austrian Publix Theatre Caravan company, a street theater group that deals with political issues.
"The effects of Carlo Giuliani's death and the imprisonment and injuries of hundreds are still being felt around the world," she said, referring to the protester who was shot to death by the Italian police.
"Certainly nobody who was in either of the A. Diaz schools on 5 and 6 via Cesare Battisti on the night of July 21st will ever forget the terror of the raids there," she added. "Thankfully, I was never beaten."
Thomas was arrested July 22 after police alleged that the theater group had conspired with the violent anarchists known as Black Bloc, who were considered mainly responsible for the riots. She was held in the women's wing of the Voghera prison outside Milan until her release Aug. 14.
The riots were the most violent since the anti-globalization movement erupted at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. But Italian police have been criticized for allegedly overreacting and engaging in brutality. Some of the worst reports of police brutality stemmed from the July 22 nighttime raid on a school where protesters were sleeping. Many were beaten, with 60 reported injured and 92 jailed.
Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that 20 police officers -- including Arnaldo La Barbera, then head of Italy's anti-terrorism department -- had been placed under criminal investigation as part of a probe into the raid.
Thomas, a Quaker, said she was praying for all those who were beaten and for the police officers who inflicted the injuries. "As Quakers say, 'There is that of God in everyone,' " she said.
"The work of the Publix Theatre caravan for freedom of movement and the rights of migrants and refugees is never more important than now," said Thomas. She said she had gone to Italy to learn about nonviolent social activism. "As capital crosses borders with ever-increasing ease, people as well must reach across borders with ever-increasing bonds of friendship and trust."
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