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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2001

`Hooligans' at G-8 summit

The death of a protester at the G-8 Summit in Italy was tragic and unnecessary, given signs that the industrialized nations have begun to pay attention to issues so important to the demonstrators.

The death of a 23-year-old Rome native brought expressions of sorrow from Italy's President Carlo Zaeglio Ciampi and prime minister. French President Jacques Chirac's remarks were insightful. He said, “One hundred thousand people don't get upset unless there is a problem in their hearts and spirits.”

More protesters showed up at the conference determined to avenge Carlo Giuliani's death with more violence, which many of the protesters rejected. “There are people who want to use this movement to do their own thing, but they are borderline hooligans,” said a leader in the French anti-globalization Attac.

The bad timing of the violence tended to overshadow the G-8 world leaders' session about the poor, health, and debt, which demonstrators say wealthy nations have ignored for too long. Such subjects have previously been lumped in with everything else, well after significant attention was paid to what the G-8 may consider more pertinent issues, such as trade and individual nations' wealth.

However, there was progress as well as tragedy in Genoa. For the first time, some poor and developing nations were invited. Nigeria, Mali, El Salvador, and Bangladesh were among those invited to meet with heads of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, and Russia, which suggests some consideration of demonstrators' concerns.

Also, G-8 nations pledged $1.2 billion to the United Nations Global Health Fund.

Next year, it won't be easy for demonstrators to protest at the Group of Eight Summit. The 2002 meeting will be scaled down, with fewer delegates, and will be held at a much more remote location, a 2,400-square-mile park 40 miles west of Calgary in the Canadian Rockies.

There's been talk about discontinuing the international meetings since protesters interrupted the World Trade Organization conference two years ago. But it's critical that world leaders continue to meet, and recognize that healthy protest - provided it's peaceful - is not a bad thing.



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