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ROME (Reuters) - An elite Italian police unit which carried out a bloody raid against protesters at a Group of Eight summit in Genoa (1) was trained by U.S. police chiefs, an Italian newspaper reported Tuesday.
For four months, 70 specially selected officers were trained by two Los Angeles police sheriffs. A larger number of police also received a week-long training course from the Americans, according to the Communist daily Liberazione.
"The prime responsibility of the two Los Angeles sheriffs was to train the men from the special unit in the use of American aluminum batons," an unidentified policeman who took part in the one-week course was quoted as saying.
"From the start, they openly criticized the way in which Italian police carry out public order," he said.
Not only is the use of foreign expertise likely to cause consternation, but the fact the officers came from Los Angeles, a city scarred by mass riots in 1992 following the police beating of black motorist Rodney King, also raises serious questions.
In a midnight assault on a school which was acting as a headquarters for protest groups during the July 20-22 summit, 62 people were injured and 93 arrested. Many were laid out on stretchers with blood-stained faces.
Reporters who entered the school soon afterwards saw blood stains on the walls and broken teeth scattered on the floor. At least one protester has since undergone brain surgery.
Allegations of police brutality have flooded in and three top police officials have been transferred by the interior minister, who has faced calls for his own resignation.
The Interior Ministry declined to make a comment at this time on the involvement of the American sheriffs.
As well as brutality, there were also allegations that police sexually assaulted female protesters. Two weeks after the summit, nearly 50 demonstrators are still in prison. Many say their human and civil rights have been violated.
The police source told the paper the American sheriffs had said repeatedly that "in Los Angeles all we need is a nucleus of 20 cops to disperse hundreds of demonstrators because we can fire rubber bullets which wound, but don't kill."
On the first day of the Genoa summit, a 23-year-old protester who was attacking a police vehicle was shot and killed by an Italian paramilitary policeman.
The source also said that the week-long course he had been assigned to was more like a military boot camp.
"We marched, learned how to form shield defenses and how to jump through fire or out of a moving vehicle," he said.
"It was more like a medieval tournament. In the end we were doing purely military training. There seemed no difference between police officers and soldiers."
(c) 2001 Reuters, Reprinted for Fair Use Only.
(1) For a detailed
eyewitness report on the midnight police assault on
sleeping protesters in Genoa, see:
* For a report on
the15 April 2000 Washington protest, see:
* For analysis of
media manipulation in Seattle, see:
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