“Basta, racism! Basta, racism!”
Enough with racism was the chanted demand of the thousands of Senegalese taking part in a march here Saturday, and the meaning behind these words has been given life once more. This time, the face of tragedy is that of Idy Diéne, and the associations of Senegalese people from Tuscany, in their own words, wanted the march “to be a painful remembrance of a loved one, but also a collective affirmation of the rejection of the incitement to hatred against migrants and refugees, which has been a marked feature of the public discourse during the past year.”
A clearly multi-generational and highly diverse crowd took over Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Via dei Fossi, the Lungarno Vespucci and Lungarno Soderini, the Ponte alla Carraia and the Amerigo Vespucci bridge—the place where the 54-year-old Diéne, a street vendor, became the subject of target practice for a gun-obsessed retired printer, who then murdered him with a final bullet to the head.
There are many more people marching than the 10,000 estimated by the police, and they all know that no one can bring Diéne back to life. But they believed being there for the march can help fight the racism, hidden or out in the open, which has been unshackled by far-right political forces. With their slogan “Italians first,” they have now gotten themselves “elected by the people” in their thousands, both in Parliament and in the local governments.
“That man planned [the murder]. He planned it like this,” a Senegalese man told Radio Popolare, almost shouting. “He saw a million people go by that day, but he shot a black man. Salvini, I see you all the time on the news, you say only bad things about Africans, and this is the result.”
On a wall on the corner of the Vespucci bridge, a poster tells the story of how Italy looks nowadays through the eyes of a migrant: “Dear Italian brothers and sisters, if you are hungry now, if you are out of work, if you have become poor, we, the blacks, the Africans, we are not guilty, we are not responsible for your troubles. If you want to find who is responsible, go to Sarkozy and Berlusconi. They bombed Libya and the rest of Africa as allies. If your bombs would have been dropped over Italy instead, what would you have done? What was poor Idy Diéne’s sin? Only the fact that he was black. Being black is a crime in Italy. Enough!”
The demonstration had been in doubt until Friday, and it was only approved at the last moment, after days in which the word “racism” was taboo, at the urging of Mayor Dario Nardella most of all. But the director of the Uffizi, Eike Schmidt, had a sensible remark to make: “If someone shoots at someone else who has skin of a different color, after running into several other people before, it is clear that it is at least a matter of subconscious racism. This is obviously unacceptable and must be eradicated, just as much as racism that is open and avowed.”
The march was a civil one, to such an extent that Nardella, who was also marching, had only one banner addressed at him: “Je suis a flower box” (referring to the mayor’s condemnation of protests following the killing as “violent” due to a flower box being broken).
The mayor, always out of the loop, seemed to have finally gotten the message: “I spoke with Idy’s family. They agreed to have a remembrance day together with a funeral ceremony, and this allowed us to plan for a day of mourning for the city. In this way, we are giving an even stronger signal of sensitivity and community spirit in our city.”
In the long procession, there were also other representatives of state institutions (Enrico Rossi), the spokeswoman of Power to the people, Viola Carofalo (“I couldn’t have been absent”), intellectuals (Adriano Sofri, Wlodek Goldkorn, Tomaso Montanari), and the leaders of the provincial ANPI (Association of Italian Partisans), led by Gigi Remaschi. Together with them marched the CGIL, USB, COBAS, ARCI, and the whole of the Florentine anti-racist network, with the many different members of the Left who are fighting and resisting.
There were also Tommaso Fattori and Giacomo Trombi, carrying a banner with a simple message: “Stay human.” And we must not forget the truth captured on a banner carried by an all-female part of the procession: “The one who shoots his wife, who shoots immigrants, is a white male, and must be stopped.”
“Come on, we need to talk, we need to make ourselves heard,” we overheard a Senegalese girl saying to her companions in the march, “because these tragedies must not happen again, we don’t want to mourn others like Samb, like Diop, like Idy.”
Because for Florence, this is not the first time. It has happened before, even if the very best part of the city, which went out marching today, would agree wholeheartedly with the sign borne by an anonymous marcher: “My brother is not an only child.”
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