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Under-reported square occupations in Italy

This story isn't being covered in Italy, because Berlusconi owns all the media. Here in the high Freedom-indexed United States, of course, things are completely different. Oh, wait... New Statesman does some reporting from the ground:

While Spain's "indignados" have made international headlines, there's a quieter series of revolutions taking place in Italy.

One such "revolution" is currently running its headquarters from a pile of sleeping bags and cushions in [Bologna']s main square, watched over by the erotic statue of Neptune, his strategically placed hand and entourage of scantily clad nymphs a favourite with tourists. ...

On 20 May, and inspired by events in Spain and the Middle East, several hundred protesters took to the streets of Bologna in a peaceful (and mostly unreported) occupation [#173] of Piazza del Nettuno, Neptune's Piazza, in the city centre.

Squatting on the stone cobbles with the others, squeezed between the cold, naked statues and this beating mass of humanity, I too couldn't help but be overcome by a feeling of hope. The atmosphere was jubilant; the crowd infected by their own sense of power and the sensation that they are taking control of their lives.

I believe that this sense of joy, of happiness is very very important. It happened at Tahrir Square, and I'm guessing it fuels the virtuous cycle of self-organizing.

That was twelve days ago. They are still there, and as I write this post I speak on the phone to Antonio, one of the protest's organisers, who describes the scene to me.

"There are 30 or 40 of us here permanently, sleeping in the street," he says, "but during the day, and especially in the evenings, as many as two or three hundred people come and join us.

"People are tired of being on the periphery of their own lives,"
he goes on. "Citizens want to feel that they are protagonists on the political stage."

That's interesting -- the Tea Party offers exactly that opportunity, to be "protagonists on the political stage."

Across the rest of the country, too, copycat protests are springing up in the most unlikely places. A photograph in La Repubblica, one of Italy's few newspapers that are not part of Berlusconi's media empire, shows a protester on the Spanish Steps in Rome holding a placard [#8] that reads: "We are not against the system, the system is against us."

The tide may be turning, but it is a slow and uncertain transition from a handful of committed activists sleeping on the streets to a full-scale political revolution. For those camped out in the squares of cities across Italy, Europe and the Middle East, one can only hope that the social and political winds that brought them there continue to blow in their favour, and do not turn against them.

"We need to do this," Antonio tells me. "The people need us."


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Jack Crow's picture
Submitted by Jack Crow on

Bologna is an interesting and special case. It's the center of Italian communism. And while the surprisingly resilient communist party and the left o' center city government are more reformist than radical - that could all change if the Italian north rediscovers solidarity with the far more destitute south.