The Tragedy of Gary Moretti
Ed. Note: This time three years ago, it was impossible to escape the ghost of Gary Moretti. The nation was entranced by the ubiquitous Tozzi photograph, the hour-long specials on NBC and CBS, and the running debates on newspaper op-ed pages and cable news programs. This 23-year-old kid momentarily seized the popular discourse in America and abroad, not so much for anything that he did, but for what circumstance did to him. In absentia, Gary became a voiceless icon, a negative space upon which we projected our own ideals and our own fears.Scarcely two weeks had passed since the incident in Genoa when I felt the first throbbing of what would become a three-year long obsession.
A local newscast aired an interview with Gary's mother and flashed photographs of Gary on the screen. One picture in particular made me pause. Gary was gently tilting a birthday cake toward the camera. “Happy 23rd Gary!” was lettered in red frosting. A cardboard crown sat atop his head and his smiled a jokingly huge and toothy smile. The normalcy shocked me. He didn't look at all the hardened revolutionary that I had imagined. Could Gary be both the jolly birthday boy and the radical street fighter? I wanted to find the line that connected these two poles. I wanted to understand how the average and the iconic could exist within one person. I never thought I'd be on the story for three years.
Rather than add to the din of voices trying to make sense of Gary Moretti, I decided that the most honest portrait of Gary would come through oral history. Having never known Gary, what would my own opinion, my own analysis be worth? The totality of my research is accumulated in A Radical Nobody: The Life and Death of Gary Moretti, a book to be released next week by HarperCollins, but the Atlanta Alternative Press has given me the opportunity to offer you an abridged version on these pages. Interview transcripts are edited for length, and the descriptions are taken directly from my notebooks. The annotation is light and only used to identify people or events with which you may be unfamiliar. Due to the restrictions inherent in a biweekly magazine, I've condensed my research down to the barest essentials that would still do justice to the story. For a more thorough picture of Gary, please check out my book.
Elliott de Rossi Atlanta Alternative Weekly July 15, 2004
Felix and Diane Moretti: Parents
Felix: mid-50s. Very thin and mustached. Haggard is too strong a word, but not far from accurate. Professor of sociology at Georgia State University, noted Marxist theorist.
Diane: mid-50s, as well. Handsome blonde (dyed? dyed.). Civil rights lawyer.
Felix & Diane separated last year. Seem ill-at-ease. Felix gives her nervous glances.
D: I guess we can start from the beginning. Gary as a child?
F: He was a very bright young man. Very smart.
D: Compassionate, if I had one word.
F: Very smart. Top marks since kindergarten.
D: But sweet. So sweet. I remember a conference with his teacher during—I guess it was the third grade?
F: Fourth, I think
D: Fourth, whatever. Gary's teacher had me and Felix in for a conference. He wasn't eating his lunches. We would send him off in the mornings with a brown bag, but he was arriving at school with nothing. She asked him, “Gary, where's your lunch?” and he wouldn't say. She thought we weren't paying attention. Negligent or something. We got home and said, “Gary, where are your lunches?” He said nothing at first but eventually—
F: “I give them to the man with the cup.”
D: “I give them to the man with the cup.” He'd been going hungry so he could give food to a homeless man he would pass on the way to school.
Rebecca Clerk: Middle School Teacher
Yes, Gary was quite bright. He was shy. I remember that he loved books, science fiction and fantasy especially. The Little Prince, he read. He always had pencils with animal-shaped erasers. I thought that he was too old for that, and seemed too smart, but he liked them. And he was the kind who wanted to please. His temper could be short, though. Once, some boys teased him about one thing or another—maybe the animal erasers, or maybe because he was pigeon-toed, or maybe just nothing specific—and Gary whacked one boy in the face with a book. Gave the boy a bloody nose. Once he'd realized what he did, he cried a lot, more than the boy he'd hurt. The blood scared him, and he seemed scared of his father, too. Not that Mr. Moretti would hit him or anything like that. Gary just didn't want to disappoint him.
Felix and Diane Moretti
D: High school? I think he got along okay. I mean it's not a great time for anyone.
F: We sent him to Woodward Academy.
D: It's not a boarding school, just—
D: North Atlanta High wouldn't have been good for, well—
F: A nerdy white boy. [laughs]
D: This is about the age where Gary started getting into politics. We both encouraged it, although his persuasion was closer to Felix's than mine.
F: Marxist. Well, actually an integration of old school Marxism-Leninism with a nod to Maoist praxis.
D: Gary had read the Manifesto by fifteen or so. Quoted it when I made him do chores. Equated doing the dishes with wage slavery.
Jacob Weinstein: Friend and roommate at Emory University
Currently works at a hedge fund in Connecticut.
He arrived a sort of quiet kid who was into science fiction. He liked the Star Wars movies, I remember. Whenever we ran out of beer, he would do this big Chewbacca roar that he thought was really funny ...
It was after the Seattle '99 protests1 that Gary really got into this anarchism stuff. He watched the news coverage and seemed excited, panting almost. He seemed really turned on by the adventure of it, the audacity of fighting for the Revolution with a capital R. He'd been pretty fluent in Marxism when he got here, thanks to his dad. So it wasn't that big of a jump up to the next level of radicalism.
For Gary, I think a lot of it was aesthetic. To look edgy, you know? He told me about how he wasn't very popular in high school. He was a virgin, he said, when he got to Emory. But at college, a lot of people took to him. Radical chic, is the phrase I'm looking for, I think. He was quick on his feet and so he usually seemed like he knew what he was talking about, and had a pretty good grasp of basic politics. But when I pushed him—I studied economics, Gary studied philosophy—when I pushed him to explain his anarchism in economic terms, he would get defensive and slippery. He'd snap at me for “giving more of a shit about numbers than real change.”
But he started going to protests after Seattle. Not that there are a ton in Atlanta. I went with him sometimes. I'm a Democrat, you know. I hate Bush and all. But for Gary, this was all as social as it was political. He liked talking with the people there, the other protestors. The old burnouts with dreadlocks and the punk kids. And he liked the credibility of having gone to protests. Used it to seduce girls, usually two kinds of girls: the radical, activisty girls, obviously, but also wealthy, tame girls who were looking for a bit of rebellion. He called these girls his “bourgeois babies.” He found Donna during junior year, though, and that pretty well stopped his womanizing.
I think I'm making him sound like an asshole. He really wasn't. Just insecure. He was a really funny guy, like funny ha-ha. Fast banter and one-liners. And he had these habits that were so soft. He was very cuddly, even to his guy friends. If I was stressing over a problem set or something, he would sit down beside me and put his head on my shoulder. Then he'd sigh, very dramatically, and say something like “life is pain” or “time to off yourself, son.” And he'd giggle. His giggle was very sharp, like a machine gun.
1 On November 30, 1999, anarchists and anti-globalization activists converged on Seattle, Washington to protest the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Conference. Riots ensued. Protestors destroyed property and fought with police, leading to over 600 arrests. News outlets worldwide covered what has since been nicknamed the Battle of Seattle. It is hailed as one of the watershed moments of contemporary anarchism.
Gary's room: Home of Diane Moretti, Brookwood Hills neighborhood, Atlanta Georgia
Gary lived here until age eighteen, and during visits and summers in the years thereafter. Ms. Moretti says she's left it “untouched” for the past three years. I believe her. A gray Emory University sweatshirt is draped over the armrest of a wooden desk chair and a half-empty bottle of Sangiovese sits on the nightstand. Room is average-sized, approximately 10x15 feet. Walls painted red ochre. Diane: “It was a compromise. Gary wanted bright red paint.” A.S. Roma soccer poster on the wall over bed. Unpainted wooden bookshelf crammed with books. A partial list:
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto EcoCatch-22 by Joseph HellerDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. DickA Scanner Darkly by Phillip K. DickNeuromancer by William GibsonThe Collected Writings of Ericco MalatestaThe Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienCat's Cradle by Kurt VonnegutDas Kapital by Karl MarxThe Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas PynchonThe entire Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas AdamsThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
The science fiction books appear well-read. Spines cracked, pages dog-eared. Das Kapital seems completely untouched. Favorite phrases (mostly slogans) in the Malatesta,2 however, are underlined. These include: “We anarchists do not want to emancipate the people; we want the people to emancipate themselves” and “Violence is the whole essence of authoritarianism, just as the repudiation of violence is the whole essence of anarchism.”
2 Ericco Malatesta (1853-1932). Italian anarchist writer and activist.
Donna Broz: Girlfriend
When he was in his element, Gary was very charming. I first met him at an Amnesty International meeting during our junior year. He didn't run the organization, but it was clear that he ran the room. He'd throw in jokes. He'd flirt with everyone, doling out pet names. The girls would get “hun” or “ma'am” or “lady,” and with the guys he'd get a bit more risquÃƒÂ©: “sweet tits” or “love monkey.” There was a cocky air about him, but he was charming. He could pull it off.
Get him away from that milieu, though, and he clammed up. He'd never be impolite, just shy. And he was so fragile. He'd hate for me to be telling you this—he liked to be seen as the invincible—but he was one of the most fragile people I knew. Prone to crying. Only when we were in private, though. I'm sure Jacob saw him cry a couple of times. Have you talked to Jacob? Yes, okay. But other than Jacob, I think I was the only one he trusted enough to cry around. Movies would do it. We saw Billy Elliot, that one about the working class ballet dancer, and he cried his eyes out in the movie theater. At Gladiator, too. When Russell Crowe died at the end, rejoining his family in the afterlife.
The first time we... I don't know how much information is too much, but the first time we had sex, he cried afterward. It was very, I don't know. It was strange, but sweet at the same time. He liked to sleep with his head on my chest, and when we spooned he liked to be the little spoon. Very feminine in some ways, and I think that's part of what drew me to him. How brash and macho he could be in some ways, like arguments about politics, and how very—not dainty—sensitive, I guess, he could be when we were alone.
We were dating right up until he left for Italy.
Felix and Diane Moretti
F: The trip to Italy was a graduation present. A chance for him to travel. See Rome, Florence—
D: I had no idea about the G8 summit.3 No clue. But Felix, of course—
F: Gary wanted to be part of the protests, you know, the demonstrations. We didn't tell his mother about this because we were afraid she'd worry.
D: How stupid of me.
F: Diane, how could I have told you?
D: I'm so glad that I had you around to protect me. Thank you, Felix.
3 Each year, the heads of state of eight of the world's most productive economies meet to discuss issues of global importance. The 2001 G8 summit, held July 20-22 in Genoa, Italy, was to be the scene of massive anti-globalization protests, attracting activists from around the world.
Gary Moretti: Voicemail Message
Left in the account of Donna Broz, July 20, 2001.
Hey lady, it's Gary. Big convergence today. A group is breaking off from the main march and it oughtta be an adventure. The protests here are way bigger than anything in Atlanta. Anyway, love you lots. And I'll call you back if I need you to wire me bail money. Just kidding. Love you.
Sean Kirkpatrick: English Anarchist
Yep, that's me. I'm the bloke in the picture with Gary, the picture that gets all the play. I didn't know him at all, though. Just saw what happened happen. We were scuffling with the Carabinieri4—they're the nastiest Italian coppers, paramilitaries. They'd fired some tear gas into the crowd. They provoked us, no matter what they say. Tear gassed us because about a couple hundred of us had broken off from the main march.
That's when hell broke loose. Kids started throwing the tear gas canisters back at the fucks. I even climbed up the wall of a bank to nick the Italian flag—it ain't my flag, but all flags are the same, ain't they? But we were pushing them back, the riot police, I mean. What you hear about the riot mentality is real. Once people get in that atmosphere, they get empowered. Do things they wouldn't normally. The energy of the crowd works through them.
And then a kid with a red bandana around his face—this is Gary—rips up a piece of cobblestone and starts heading toward a Carabinieri jeep, one with an open back. I wasn't five meters away, and I was cheering, all excited since he looked like he was going to throw it at a copper inside.
Then, I hear the copper shout something in Italian—I don't speak Italian—and it looked to me like Gary hesitated. He looked surprised at himself, like “What in the bloody hell am I doing?” I thought he was going to put the rock down. Then, the gun shot off. Really loud-like. BANG! And Gary falls down while the jeep drives away. I went over to check on the kid. His head was bloodied up. His blood was puddling up the ground. Big fucking hole in his forehead. The only time I ever, you know, seen anything like this.
His pulse was fluttering, and I remember screaming for an ambulance, but I knew it didn't matter.
They started this, though. Make sure people know that. And Gary was a hair's breadth from dropping the rock. No need to shoot him. None.
4 Italian military police. They police both civilian and military populations.
Francesco Tozzi: Photojournalist, Reuters
I took the picture. I did not see the shot fired, but I heard it. The first I saw, Moretti was on the ground. I started clicking with my camera. There are several pictures in the series, but it was the one with the Kirkpatrick staring into his eyes and screaming that got famous. I hear it is on posters, but I do not know why you would want that on your wall.
Felix and Diane Moretti
D: Felix took the phone call.
F: I talked to a doctor. One from the hospital. They knew then that ...
D: After Felix told me, I just sat paralyzed on the sofa. And... oh, Gary—
[Diane begins to choke up, puts a hand over her eyes. Felix reaches to touch the back of her neck, but changes his mind, places hand back in his lap.]
F: I was at a loss for what to do. I knew there was always risk, that class war sometimes results—
D: Oh, shut up, Felix! Class war?!
F: I didn't kill Gary, Diane.
D: You filled his head with that shit. Marx. Class war. You—
F: He was our—
D: He never—Gary would have never [unintelligible, coughing] just a boy.
I apologize, Mr. de Rossi, but I'd really prefer not to talk about this. It was hard. It still is. Seeing that picture of him everywhere. Some people acting like he's a villain and others like he's a martyr. That fucking rock. Why did he have to? I don't have anything else to say. I'm sorry.
Email from Ernesto Luzatto
Mr. Luzatto is the attorney of Salvatore D'Amico, the then-20 year old Carabinieri officer who allegedly shot Gary Moretti.
Mr. De Rossi--
My client has no comment, other than to point to the fact that all charges against him have been dropped. He wishes to reiterate his contention that it was not he who fired the shot that killed Gary Moretti. Ballistic evidence shows that the bullet that killed Moretti was not of the same calibre as ammunition used by the Carabinieri. Mr. D'Amico has spent the past three years attempting to move beyond this tragedy and would appreciate a respect for his privacy.
Giuseppe Fabrizio: Carabinieri Officer, Driver of the Jeep (Translated from Italian.)
D'Amico shot him. You must understand the circumstances. We were under attack. Our jeep was surrounded by protestors. They had already shattered our rear windshield with boards. They were lighting things on fire. We were under siege. If the boy had a rock, D'Amico had to shoot. I know he says that it was not his gun, and I think that he believes it. To kill someone must cause severe psychological damage. Please just leave him alone. I assure you it was self-defense.
Tony Blair: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
This is effectively a sort of anarchist traveling circus that goes from summit to summit, moving from each summit with the sole purpose of causing as much mayhem as possible. In fact, their actions have nothing to do with anything other than a desire to cause violence that threatens the lives and the livelihoods of innocent people, and I would like to send the clearest possible signal that such protests must not and will not disrupt the proper workings of democratic organizations.5
5 “Blair: anarchists will not stop us,” BBC.co.uk
Eli Day: Senior White House Official Speaking on Behalf of George W. Bush
The president regrets the violence, believes the violence is regrettable, the tragic death and the injuries to the protesters and to the police officers is highly regrettable.6
6 “G8 summit death shocks leaders,” CNN.com
“Gary Moretti (One of Us!)”- Tbe Molotov CockTails, Bristol, UK
The Molotov CockTails have remained a mainstay of the UK punk scene for the past fifteen years. "Gary Moretti (One of Us!)” appeared on their 2003 album Candlelight Riot released by Stooge Kat Records. Candlelight Riot debuted at #97 on the Billboard 200, a major achievement for the usually inaccessible hardcore punk genre. The music video for “Gary Moretti (One of Us!)” includes footage of the G8 protests and ends with a screenshot of the Tozzi photograph.
Marching in blackPoised to reactGary, our brother, chose to fight back Blood runs redSoaking in the streetsTry to stand upGot shot down by the pigs![Chorus:]Gary Moretti(One of us! One of us!)Gary Moretti(One of us! One of us!)Young like 'yeDead at twenty-threeSlain like a dog by Carabinieri!Didn't die in vainBe fucked if we let it!Feds' fuckin' bloodTime that we shed it![Chorus]Every time you stand up (Gary lives on!)In every riot that erupts (Gary lives on!)In every window that you smash (Gary lives on!)Every time you fight back (Gary lives on!)[Chorus 2x]
Gary's Headstone: Greenwood Cemetery, Atlanta Georgia
Simple granite headstone. Trinkets littered about, including a rain-dampened copy of the Tozzi photograph, a folded black and red anarchist flag, a l6 oz. can of Coors, myriad flowers.
Gary David Moretti
April 7, 1978 - July 20, 2001
Lived Without Regret, Died Without Reason