Women are tired and can’t take it anymore. And they’re also very angry. That was the atmosphere on Sunday in Palermo’s Piazza Bellini at around 6 p.m., as people began to gather for the regional march convened by Non Una Di Meno, in the final event after four days of protests throughout Italy.
The banner the marchers carried at the front had three different slogans, only apparently unrelated: “Ti rissi no,” (“I told you no” in the Sicilian dialect), the symbolic slogan of the protests that arose after the recent gang rape in the city, “Free bodies in free spaces,” and, underneath, in a different font, a straight-up accusation: “You are all involved.”
“It’s no longer enough for us to say ‘no’ to rapists and violent men. It’s time to bring a case against the whole system that fuels and nurtures violence: the courts, the military bases, the press, the educational system, the health system,” said Chiara Paladino, spokesperson for Non Una di Meno Palermo. “We have called Sicily together with the desire to tell the story of our condition as southerners who most acutely experience the lack of services, the continuous cuts to welfare, the lack of attention except for when there’s some particular striking case, to paint a picture of the ‘backwards’ south, with the strong hues of anti-southern sentiment.”
At the event in the central Piazza Bellini, speeches alternated with music, with hundreds of people, growing into thousands, crowding into the corners of the square and on adjacent streets. All age groups were represented, but young people, men and women, were definitely the largest presence. It was difficult to find any institutional figure, after the activists’ request not to carry symbols and flags belonging to parties and unions. However, the Palermo branch of CGIL joined in with a statement of support. Also, a number of city councilors took part in the march, as well as Valentina Chinnici, regional deputy from the PD, and Sergio Lima from the party’s national leadership.
Otherwise, the marchers came from NGOs, collectives and anti-violence centers. The banner of “Le Onde” particularly stood out, a historic shelter in Palermo, active since the early 1990s in supporting women victims of domestic violence: “We have never been closed for a single day. About 500 women come to us every year. We’ve had to develop high-level skills in terms of planning. The only way we can guarantee our presence in the area is to succeed with local, national and European funding applications,” said Maria Grazia Patronaggio.
The network of associations that make up Palermo Pride were also present at the event. Luigi Carollo, its coordinator, explained how the LGBTQ+ world sees the events of this summer: “On the road towards the next Pride, we want to put masculinist violence at the center of attention, not in mere solidarity but with self-criticism. Starting from the toxic masculinity that is also present in the gay and LGBT world: indeed, ‘you are,’ and ‘we are,’ all involved. We want to ask the municipality of Palermo to open a space for public discussion with the movement on the concept of safety in the city. If it won’t do this, we are willing to withdraw the application for sponsorship, which would be a significant political act.”
The procession from Piazza Bellini went into Via Maqueda and then turned onto Via Vittorio Emanuele, all streets in the city center, lined on both sides with the curious faces of tourists. However, the air was still tense, and there was little of the joyous atmosphere that can often be felt at feminist demonstrations. It would take four or five heartfelt speeches to loosen the tension and the powerful impact of I Will Survive to get people to start moving their bodies in rhythm and make the bonds of community felt more and more.
The march proceeded in several stages, and one of the first stops featured a speech with a scathing indictment against the media world. At the center of the critique was not only the use of literary tropes that deny responsibility to describe perpetrators, such as “the monster,” “the beasts,” or “the fit of jealous rage,” but also the judgmental intrusion into the private lives of victims, as well as news pieces “in which the violence committed on our bodies is described in minute detail in order to tickle among the public that morbid curiosity that boosts audience numbers, at the expense of those who have suffered this violence and find themselves reliving it again in a public way.” The fiery speech ended with these words: “This is the pornography of pain. Dear journalists, you are also violent.”
The transfeminist spirit was stirred up once again after a few hundred meters, when the march stopped for another speech in front of the Prosecutor’s Office building. Here, the criticism was directed against the sexism of the courts, and also Interior Minister Piantedosi, who was present in Palermo the day before for the inauguration of a territorial control operations center, on which occasion, almost as if possessed by a sudden impulse of progressivism, he said that “girls must be free to go out in miniskirts.”
The uncompromising stand against the government’s repressive and securitarian solutions was perhaps the central theme of the entire event. Before the Interior Minister’s cameo appearance, the city’s police chief had convened a round table on security. The first response to the news of the rape of the young Palermo woman had been a police raid in working-class neighborhoods, mostly targeting street vendors.
The procession then stopped and dedicated a minute of silence to the victims of femicide: 80 since the beginning of the year. The latest have been Rossella Nappini, a Roman nurse whose funeral was held on Sunday, and Marisa Leo, from Sicily, in whose memory a demonstration has been called for September 15 in Salemi. She had pressed charges against her killer, but that was not enough to keep her alive.
At the microphone, a young woman from Catania shouted with great passion: “The femicidal man has the keys to our house – the same keys we hold tightly in a fist whenever we come home alone at night. No one taught us to do that, but we’ve discovered we all do.”
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.