Social Representations of Protest and Police after the Genoa G8 Summit: A Qualitative Analysis of Activist Accounts of Events
The Genoa G8 Summit of 2001 was marred by violence and conflicts between police and activists. Afterwards, these different groups constructed clashing discourses about the events. In turn, these discourses sustained different types of social representations about the nature of the conflict. Earlier analyses of hegemonic social representations examining the Italian press suggested that non-violent activists were subject to processes of delegitimisation and that they were identified with black bloc activists (Cristante, 2003; Juris, 2005; Zamperini & Botticini, 2006). Conversely, in this study we analyze activists’ accounts of the protest and of the violent police repression. We examine a collection of published texts (N= 223) posted on a ‘cyber-wall’ online as part of a collaborative project from three Italian media outlets: Il Manifesto, Radio Popolare, Carta. These texts represent a form of ‘counter-narrative’ produced by a stigmatized group to contest the dominant discourse, creating a tripartite of relations between non-violent activists, police and the black bloc. The analysis of these texts shows that activists represent the protest as a battle between two groups. Activists describe police as coercive, incompetent, and as the enemy. While the black bloc was perceived to have damaged the protest, they were not depicted as the enemy. Cognitive, emotive and behavioural factors associated with these representations are highlighted and discussed, together with the implications for future intergroup relations between activists and the police.