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Massive School Protests in Rome

Two days of protests against the Berlusconi government's proposed school privatization. Tens of thousands of students in revolt. Scores of schools occupied by students, some for over a month.
Two days of protests against the Berlusconi government's proposed school reforms. Tens of thousands of students in revolt. Scores of schools occupied by students, some for over a month. That is the situation facing the Education minister Moratti and her boss Berlusconi at the so-called States-General of the Italian education system.

While the minister met with "official" representatives of the world of education, the students themselves organized themselves to show their strongest refusal to accept the "commercialization"["privatization"] of the state school system, in 2 days of protest, helped in part by the organization of the COBAS - the self-managed, independent union.

On Wednesday 19 December, they organized a march through the centre of Rome with over 10,000 participants. Chanting and dancing their way along the streets, the students also handed out leaflets to publicise their cause. The offices of a temporary employment agency was invaded and smoke bombs let off, but little other damage took place, apart from the writing of slogans on walls.

Later in the evening many students made their way to one of Rome's many "Social Centres" to spend the evening in celebration.

On Thursday 20 December, the protests resumed in the EUR quarter on the outskirts of Rome, where the States-General were in progress. 100,000 students, sang, chanted, waved their placards and banners and defied the riot police (over 6 000 fully armed riot cops to counter the schoolchildren!!). The event was mostly peaceful, although at one point the crowd surged forward and broke through the barriers, launching smoke bombs and slogans at the pigs.

A full report (in Italian) and some great photos of the event can be found at the MW4K website: http://www.tmcrew.org/mw4k/iniz11.htm

Inside, at the States-General, the whole event was a total fiasco. Instead of consultations with members of the world of education, the minister for education spoke only of her proposals. The few students permitted even to enter were studiously ignored even when they spoke to the assembly, with one young Neapolitan even bursting into tears in frustration. The whole event finished in farce as a team of private bodyguards/police impeded further protests on the part of the school- children, even to the point of violence, from which even journalists suffered - pushing and shoving, hands covering TV cameras, and [President] Berlusconi himself who was too afraid to present himself in front of the crowd, handed in a written statement and slipped out the back door!

In the meantime, COBAS have announced another strike for February.

NMcN

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