Reportage. The Assisi Pace Giusta network, which includes trade unions and NGOs, brought 30,000 people to the streets of Rome on Saturday. ‘We need the Italian government and the European Commission to intervene more forcefully to demand a ceasefire.’

Italian peace coalition: Ceasefire now and an end to military spending

The people who are committed to peace in Italy are still there and continue to make themselves heard. On Saturday, in Rome, in the spring rain, 30,000 people (according to the organizers) joined together in a demonstration that descended from Piazza della Repubblica to the Imperial Fora. The Assisi Pace Giusta network (Assisi Just Peace), which brings together CGIL, ANPI, ARCI, Emergency and many Catholic NGOs, organized the demonstration in just ten days, and the response has been “greater than expected.”

The unanimous demand is “immediate ceasefire in Gaza,” and the many Palestine flags among the marchers testify to a special connection between our two countries, with the word “genocide” prominently featured on many signs. “We are Jews and Palestinians, we are Russians and Ukrainians, humanity has no borders,” reads one of the banners.

“We are here because the UN resolutions must be applied, starting with the Two Peoples, Two States solution,” explains CGIL Secretary Maurizio Landini.

“We are in the streets to defend the right of the Palestinian people and the right of the Israeli people to exist. And this can only happen with peace. What the Netanyahu government is doing is not going in that direction,” Landini continued. “It’s also against his own people. We need the Italian government and the European Commission to intervene more forcefully to demand a ceasefire and put together a real peace conference. We need to stop all wars: the one in Ukraine, the one in Syria, the ones going on in Africa. We are not willing to accept the fact that war is once again a tool for regulating relations between states.”

He added: “Military spending and the weapons trade are growing. I think this is very dangerous. That’s why it’s important to mobilize. But we are also here to defend the right to demonstrate. It’s the best way to respond to the dangerous logic of the Meloni government, which, instead of taking democratic demands into account, is thinking about using force. That is not the way. And I say this with respect for the police workers, because it’s not them who are the problem, but the orders and the mistaken logic that the government is using.”

Arriving at the Imperial Fora, the crowd flowed through the bottleneck of the barriers and fences. The organizers’ choice was to give space to direct testimonies from Gaza and artists from the stage. “We decided to avoid rallies,” explained Flavio Lotti of Tavolo della Pace. “We want to convey the idea that it is the whole of society that has to react.”

“The only real goal is a cease-fire, that’s what everyone has asked us for,” clarified ARCI president Walter Massa, back from his trip to Egypt. Then, after the students who recalled the beatings endured by their fellow students in Pisa, it was Fiorella Mannoia’s turn to fire up the crowd with a speech from the heart: “Those who speak of peace are laughed at, or worse, they end up on blacklists. I never thought I would live in such a world.” She ended her address, brief like the others, with a quote from Fabrizio De Andrè: “Don’t keep your compassion hidden away out of sight.”

Yousef Hamdouna, from the NGO Educaid in Rafah, now has “his whole family, 57 people, living without food, water, medicine, like everyone else. What is infuriating is that the idea has become accepted that there is a hunger problem in Gaza, but stopping the bombs is perhaps a higher priority. Silence is a bomb that is hitting every single person: in Gaza we are abandoned.”

On behalf of the delegation of politicians and activists who have just returned from the Gaza border, Alfio Nicotra denounced “the Israeli government’s attempt to de-Palestinize the Gaza Strip,” while Elio Germano strikingly compared the size of military spending – “29 billion in 2024 in Italy alone” – with “how much good could be done with that money: with the cost of a submarine, you could hire 8,000 nurses for 5 years,” and concluded by asking the crowd to “never stop fighting.”

Alessandro Bergonzoni’s final video address was a torrent of thoughtful words that stuck in our memory: “All right, we can discuss the etymology of ‘genocide,’ but a genocide came first: the massacre of our minds, one that can’t be twisted from evil to good. Even Death is calling for a truce, it can’t manage anymore.”

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