There was plenty of food, along with depictions of countryside, trees and water on the banners and homemade signs carried by demonstrators against the TTIP — the transatlantic treaty under discussion in secret rooms between the U.S. and E.U. — who marched Sunday through the streets of Rome. They were showing their contempt for provisions of a deal that would put the environment and food regulations increasingly at the discretion of multinational corporations.
According to the organizers, 50,000 people were present. A better estimate might have been 30,000. But even if there were half as many, it would be an unprecedented showing for such a complicated topic, with an almost unpronounceable English name — Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — and very little, or almost no information in the mainstream media.
The “Stop TTIP” crowd who gathered for this inaugural event in Italy was more mixed than usual. Farmers with reeds instead of poles for their flags, activists of local associations, service workers, people from as far away as Venice and many, many young people. They were accompanied by the annual Million Marijuana parade (favoring, of course, the liberalization of cannabis). After police disbanded them from Piazza della Repubblica, they largely merged into the procession behind a truck of young communists blasting reggae music.
When the parade passed onto Via Merulana, Greenpeace unfurled from a window a large vertical banner that said “Yes We Can Stop TTIP” and a drawing of Barack Obama speaking with a microphone. It’s a mockery: The current occupant of the White House has launched and strenuously defended the agreement between the two shores of the Atlantic for the removal of non-tariff barriers, a gift to multinational corporations and a Trojan Horse to accelerate the privatization of goods and services in the Old Continent.
The many speakers bellowing from the parade’s lead truck argued for the people to push back. “People before profits” read the banner behind them. The Rev. Alex Zanotelli, a priest, was among them. He denounced the secrecy with which the negotiations in Brussels have been carried out for years, calling it “the shadow in which the European and U.S. elites move, like vampires.”
Eleonora Forenza, a European representative of the Tsipras list in Greece, explained that “the goal of removing non-tariff barriers is a final attack on public services, common goods and the principle of environmental and food protections.”
Maurizio Landini, the secretary of the Italian metalworkers’ union, said people’s “rights, and especially jobs, are at stake because the goal is to manage the market without social constraints. And the unemployment and the huge increase in inequality that we are already experiencing is the result of this design, through which wealth will do whatever it wants and laws will be tailored to the lobbies.”
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