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Huge anti-war protest in Rome

Rival pro- and anti-war demonstrations paralysed Rome's city centre on 10 November. There were four times as many opponents as supporters of the war, despite heavy backing from the government and big business for the pro-war rally.
Huge anti-war protest in Rome

by Ivano Stacco, for MWAW, 11 November

Supporters of the war, bussed in by 520 coaches paid for by Forza Italia, the far-right party led by Silvio Berlusconi, Europe's wealthiest man and the current president of Italy, gathered in the Piazza del Popolo in downtown Rome mid-afternoon under the banner "Not to forget" and declared the day "USA Day". In addition to supporters of Forza Italia, there were also supporters of Gianfranco Fini's Allianza Nazionale, an anti-immigrationist party in the mould of the Austrian Freedom Party or the French National Front; the New Socialist Party of Italy, the party with links closest to Italy's fascist past; and the Lega Nord and Liga Veneta, separatist groups calling for the independence of Italy's wealthy north.

The approximately 40,000 persons in attendance waved Italian, American, and European Union flags, paid for also by Forza Italia, as well as green and white flags of "Padania", the mythical north Italian "nation", while listening to a speech by president Berlusconi and Schubert's L'Ave Maria sung by Andrea Bocelli. Berlusconi commented repeatedly during his speech: "Oggi noi siamo tutti newyorchesi" -"Today we are all New Yorkers".

Down the road, at Piazza Esadra, also known as the Piazza of the Republic, anti-war activists gathered too at mid-afternoon - approximately 130,000 in total, the largest yet anti-war turnout - before marching for five kilometres through central Rome. The demonstration, organized by the Rome Social Forum, one branch of a national committee that has been the backbone of Italy's anti-globalisation movement, included farmers, immigrants, trade unionists, civil servants, environmentalists, unemployed persons, socialists, anarchists, and members of Rome's over 30 "social centres", disused factories, garages, or industrial estates occupied by youth to hold concerts, promote anti-establishment learning, and house refugees. Also in attendance, although not in numbers as large as previous protests in Italy, were ex-Tutti Bianchi (White Overalls), now "Disobedients", who were one of the most active groups at the recent anti-G8 protest in Genoa.

Luca Casarini, leader of the Disobedients, called for the 3,000 Italian soldiers summoned to duty in Afghanistan last week to "desert as a matter of conscience".

Leading the anti-war march were the Women in Black, who held a large banner reading "No to the war - military, economic, and social" and who chanted "Non a nome mio": not in my name, the same slogan used several weeks ago at a 40,000 person rally in London held by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the spearhead of Britain's historic peace movement.

At one point in the march Women in Black were nearly forced to disperse when two men tried to block their path shouting "Duce! Duce!", the fascist salute to Mussolini during the '30s and '40s. However Carabinieri, Italy's national police, arrested the two men and the march was able to continue. Another skirmish was quickly cleared when some anarchists, who tried to burn two American flags, were chased away by a troop of Kurds.

Italy's decision to enter the war in Afghanistan is the first time since World War Two it has intervened militarily and in a partisan fashion in another country. This violates, according to anti-war activists at yesterday's protest, Article 11 of the Italian constitution, which forbids the country to go to war. [MM]

This article comes from | Media Workers Against War |

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